Just One Breath

An American girl in Scotland, figuring things out one step at a time

December 10, 2011
by heather

Winter in the Big Apple

Jamie and I had been in pretty constant contact since we had last seen each other. It had been a good year. We were fuelled with positive vibes so we got a crazy idea. We wanted to spend a week in New York City. Jamie had a good job and I was doing pretty well too… this seemed very doable. So we booked a week in January of 2006 to spend time in the Big Apple. We had rough plans about the things we wanted to see. We had tentatively planned a few museums, the Apple Store (0f course), Ground Zero, one fancy night out and whatever else came our way.

We were to meet at the hotel and then we would plan what to do. I got there first and the hotel reception could not let me in the room because Jamie didn’ t know that my name needed to be listed as the other person in the room. I was fine though, it was a great hotel and the lobby was nice. I sat and looked through the magazines to see what was happening in the city that week. I saw a play that interested me, A Touch of the Poet by Eugene O’Neill. I was not interested in this play for any other reason than it had one of my favourite actors starring in the lead, Gabriel Byrne. I love him! I wanted to see this play so badly. I also learned that where we were staying, On The Ave, on the upper west side of NYC was a stomping ground for Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City. I was freaking out because I loved the show and I would have died to see her. It was a good hour and a bit that I sat in the lobby waiting for Jamie to call my cell to let me know he was ok, I had a lot of time to formulate plans on what we should do…and stare out the window wondering if I saw Cynthia Nixon would I have the guts to ask if I could be her nanny. Haha!

When Jamie finally called I was so relieved to hear his voice. I let him speak to the front desk to verify that I was the other person in the party so they could let me in the room. The room was so nice. It had two queen sized beds, a big tv, and not a bad view. It was cozy and I couldn’t wait for him to get there. Then the butterflies started… and I couldn’t sit still. I unpacked and claimed a side of the room. I hung up my new dress, vintage cut and amazing, I called it my “Sex and the City dress”. I looked for ages to find the perfect dress to wear for our fancy night out. I wanted to look beautiful for him and this dress was a winner.

I needed to calm down, I kept thinking of what it would be like to see him. The thought of Jamie always twisted me up inside. No matter what was going on in my life he was my bright spot. The spot that I focused on. When I was able to be in his presence it was overwhelming and yet somehow I was peaceful. I decided to lie down and rest because he still had to get through customs and get to the hotel from the airport. Then I heard it… the key card in the door. He was there, we were in New York City together.

After a few hugs and some catch up time we decided to go out for a bite to eat. There was a diner right across from our hotel and it had a great view of Broadway. This diner became our favorite spot for a late night coffee and a treat. The service was so good and the food was fabulous. As we sat there eating I remember thinking how easy it was. I had missed him and it was going to be a great week. I let him know about the play and he agreed that it would be the perfect play to see knowing, in Jamie’s words, that I had a “major crush on Gabriel Byrne”. When we got back to the hotel J brought out his laptop and booked the tickets. I was freaking out.

Over the week we spent in the city we saw and did so many things. We chose a different area of Manhattan to explore each day. We went to Ground Zero and saw the Statue of Liberty. I was feeling very patriotic that day.

Ground Zero Message

There was a trip to the Natural History Museum and Central Park. I don’t think Jamie put his camera down the whole day.

Doing what he loves!

Late night walking around was a must too. The city completely changes at night.

South St. Seaport was crazy! It was so warm that day…

New York in January! The coat came off.

Looking very handsome. 2 seconds earlier he was being a cheeseball and pointing at everything.

We also window shopped on 5th Avenue. Tiffany’s for me and the Apple store for him. I don’t think that there was a place in the city that we didn’t see.

When it was the day to see the play I was so excited. I loved seeing Broadway shows. It was one of the things that made me love NYC so much. I was having such a good time with Jamie already and doing something I was familiar with was going to be nice to share with him.  Jamie hadn’t told me about the location of our seats but I figured they would be in the balcony, that was where the nice cheap seats are for the matinees. When we got to the theater I realized we were on the main floor and as we were walking to our seats I kept thinking we were going to stop any row now. I remember hearing Jamie say “just keep going, keep going” as we walked down the aisle towards the stage. I was completely shocked at where we were actually sitting, 5 rows from the front. I was so amazed by what he had done for me. We both agreed that they were probably the best seats in the house. The play was extremely well done and I could see Gabriel so well. It simply was the best day.

On the night before we left we realized that we hadn’t worn our fancy clothes to go out. We had been so busy all week and we really didn’t know what a dressy night out would involve so we kept putting it off. By the last night we knew it was too late to make plans so I suggested we just get dressed up in the hotel room. We split up, Jamie stayed in the room and I went to the bathroom to change. Jamie put on his suit and I put on my fancy dress and very high heels and then entered the room. We looked at each other for a minute and I thought how handsome and grown up he looked. I marveled at how he had changed since we were kids. We looked so nice but had nothing to do. I went over to the cd collection that I brought and pulled out a nice mellow cd. I asked him if he wanted to dance… from then on we didn’t talk much. We danced and danced for ages, I didn’t want the evening to end. I kept thinking to myself, how I wished he would kiss me. I wondered what it would be like after all of those years. There were moments when we nearly did but then for some reason, that I again don’t to this day understand, it was easier to just bury my head in his chest and keep dancing. It was one of the most romantic evenings we have ever had and we hadn’t even left the room. We had everything we needed there.


It was a trip that I will never forget. We had an absolutely amazing time. We were totally grown up and off doing something big by ourselves. Without hesitation we agreed that we would have to do New York again. I didn’t ever for a moment regret the trip but I did regret not kissing Jamie. I always regretted not kissing him. This trip really brought out the fact that we could say anything to each other when we were on the computer but when we were face to face it was impossible. We both felt the pull and we both buried it until we were home and poured our guts out over instant messenger. Our list of regretful lost moments was getting longer. Why? Why? Why? Why didn’t I just tell him how I felt? Why hadn’t I kissed him? Were we really destined to be this perfect for one another and never get it right? Maybe we still had some more growing up to do. x heather



November 30, 2011
by heather
1 Comment

The go-to leek and potato soup

Jamie and I have recently decided that we wanted to have less meat on the menu, at least 3 days a week are veg-only meals. There are so many wonderful vegetarian meals out there but as it is winter and getting seriously chilly in the evenings, I have been looking for soups that are quick, easy and satisfying and this one is a winner. There is so little that is needed to make this belly warming treat and it is fast and cheap to make. It takes about 3 minutes to prepare the vegetables and stock, only 10 to 15 mins to simmer and blend and it is done. 20 minutes of magic and a warm, healthy and vegetarian meal is served.

What you will need:

  • 2 leeks
  • 1 onion (I prefer red onion but have used white as well.)
  • 8 to 10 oz of white potatoes
  • 2 pints of vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • *** optional*** creme fraiche (sour cream may work as a substitute)
  • 1 pot
  • blender (I prefer my stick blender.)
What you need to do:
  • Chop the leeks. It doesn’t need to be perfect because they are getting blended.
  • Peel and chop the potatoes and onion. Again, rough cut doesn’t matter.
  • Heat the oil in the pot and add all vegetables. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes making sure you don’t burn them.

Chopped veggies

  • Next, add the 2 pints of vegetable stock and bring the soup to a nice simmer. Cover and leave to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Simmer away!

  • Remove the soup from the heat and let it stand for a minute or two, or until you are confident that you will not get scalded. I usually can’t wait and just blend right away with extreme caution.
  • Using the blender, make sure you blend until completely smooth and creamy. The soup can be done at this point just season to taste. I never salt as I think the soup is salty enough with the stock. The first batch I ever made I added salt to the pot and it was WAY TO SALTY!
  • The optional choice, and my preferred preparation way,  is to return the soup to the heat and add in 150 ml of creme fraiche. Blend it thoroughly with a whisk until it is completely smooth and reheated. This adds a little extra creaminess to the soup.

Yum Yum... warm soup and freshly baked bread.

  • Last thing to do is serve with some freshly baked bread,  your own if you are confident, and tuck in.  If you want a quick and easy bread recipe try this classic soda bread. I modify this with 200ml plain yoghurt and 200ml milk and then add a good squeeze of honey to it. The rest stays the same. It is sticky so keep the flour handy and it is a fast kneading process… really fast no rise time needed. Excellent! Try it.
So now that your delicious soup is ready and your warm bread is covered in melted butter go get warmed up from the inside. Let me know what you think and if you change anything. Also, feel free to share some of your favorite belly warming winter soup recipes. Enjoy! x heather

November 28, 2011
by heather

Made from scratch

As I was looking over some new recipes this week I came to a new realization, I am not afraid to cook anything anymore. When I first moved to Scotland in March I desperately wanted to be able to cook for Jamie and I didn’t know where to begin. I looked at recipe books and kept saying… there are too many ingredients! That one takes 3 hours. How will I ever be able to make bechamel sauce? What is the celsius to fahrenheit conversion? What? How? What? How? I had so many questions and such fear of messing up.

The first thing that I made was a Chicken pasta bake. It was edible and safe. I barely dared to use spices and I was terrified of undercooking the chicken. I was cooking with a new oven though so it was a start. We ate it and it was the beginning of our food conversations. I was very sensitive so anything we discussed about my cooking felt like it came with a sting even if it was a compliment.

I began to cook other things that were safe but I always threw Jamie out of the kitchen when I was cooking. It made me nervous to have him watch. When we began each meal I would say… “I hope it doesn’t suck.” I think this was my way of getting off the hook if it did. As the days of trying to cook became weeks and then months of hardcore learning to cook I realized I don’t say that anymore. As each new recipe was tried we discussed what would add to the recipe and what was there too much of. We put things on the make again list or don’t make again. I can honestly say there are about 2 things on the don’t make list, the bland pasta bake being one of them in my mind, and everything else has made it through. My days of kicking Jamie out of the kitchen are over and I gladly invite him in to chat with me while I am cooking. We often have team cooking sessions too. These have become some of my favorite moments with him. We are side by side cutting, sauteing, grilling and baking. Domestic Bliss!

The first daring try... the Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad

This salad gave me hope that I could do something that was a little more complex. This recipe had more than 5 steps! That was a massive achievement.

Ginger Maple Soy Salmon

This salmon was much more complex. This had more ingredients and took more time but with my new found confidence it was easy. The flavors are so delicious, it is a firm winner.

Leek and Potato Soup with homemade Soda bread

I didn’t even know if I liked leeks but I wanted a fast soup that would be great on a cold day… oh boy did I find it. This is my new go-to soup. The bread was a major learning process. Thanks to some motivation from our favorite chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jamie and I began braving the bread baking. Soda bread is fast and oh so tasty. I think that the store to home baked bread is about 10 home baked  to 1 store now. That feels so good.

Homemade Vegetable Pakoras

This is me getting daring now. I love Pakoras and so does Jamie. I wanted to do Indian this night so I made my Curried Carrot and Apple soup to go with these babies. Hugh had once again inspired me to make something new. So with the pakora recipe in hand, or on iPad I should say, I got my ingredients, all 16 of them, and went to town. This was actually really easy. Not once did I look at it and say, there are how many ingredients!? How long will this take? I just did it…with Jamie there to watch and be brave enough to be the first to flip the pakoras. I wanted him with me instead of pushing him out the door.

I have to thank my husband for his support, motivation and honesty throughout the whole learning to cook process. He has continually given me the confidence to keep trying new things and giving me the tools to do it. Our spice rack had about four spices on it in March, now has twenty or more and long gone are the days of carrots or parsnips with every meal.  I now love making lasagne from scratch and proudly say that it takes me 3 hours and it is 99% homemade. I am just waiting for the pasta maker. x heather


November 22, 2011
by heather

The Winter of My Discontent

By the winter of 2004 a real panic had set into my brain. Jamie had finished his Master’s Degree in IT and was working at the University of Stirling. I was aware that he liked a girl but, thankfully for me, she moved back to her country after they graduated. I was so full of worry about what was going to happen when he met someone who would take him away from me? We may not have been together as a couple but we were inseparable. He was still my constant, my rock, my best friend and I tried my best to be his. No girl would understand our relationship and I honestly didn’t know how he would even attempt to explain it if he needed to. I, on the other hand, was tough in my relationships. I always said to anyone who questioned our friendship that he was my best friend and I loved him and that was it, he wasn’t going anywhere. I couldn’t see him getting away with this defence with a girl.

Jamie and I hadn’t seen each other in a year and we both thought it was a good opportunity to spend some time together. Jamie wanted to come to me this time and I thought that was a great idea, the guy I was seeing at the time thought otherwise. Jamie was to come around Christmas and I was thrilled. I had just moved into my first place and I was so excited to show him.

Before Jamie came to stay with me our preparations began. We saw that The Pixies, Jamie’s favorite band, had a reunion and were doing a tour. One of the dates was for New York City during the time that he was to be with me. When he found out about the concert he was hopeful that we would be able to go to the show. I was desperate to get him an amazing Christmas gift and I knew just what to do. Holly and I got the tickets for the NYC show as a surprise and I lied to Jamie… that was so hard. I told him that the show for NYC was sold out and that I had really really tried to get tickets but couldn’t. He believed me, I never lied to him. We decided to go to the city even though we couldn’t go to see The Pixies. I was also able to get tickets to see them in Philadelphia with Holly a few days before his arrival. He was happy for me and couldn’t wait to hear how the show was.

On the day of Jamie’s arrival I was so nervous and excited. I sat and waited for what seemed like hours. I was thinking about running to him and kissing him and holding on forever. When he finally arrived as soon as I saw him I began to feel the pull… the pull to him. I did run down the ramp and hug him but I don’t really like public displays of affection so I didn’t kiss him. I didn’t want to make a scene. At night, I wanted so desperately curl up with him on the couch but being a faithful “girlfriend”, even when it is undeserved, I didn’t do anything. I needed to give my new relationship a shot…right? Jamie and I were best friends and no matter how much I loved him we had proven over and over that we were going to stay…just friends. Every time we said good night I wanted to be close to him but chose to sleep in a separate room. I don’t know why honestly… I just don’t know why.

We decided to have our Christmas alone before the actual day. We sat in front of my tree and I watched Jamie open his gifts. Richard Scarry was an author he brought up many times so I wanted to get him one of his books. I hunted for an old version of a collected works for ages and I finally found one. He was so happy with it. I also got him a magazine that had The Pixies featured on the front, kind of as a tease but also letting him think it was something to tie him to the concerts that were going on. He got me some beautiful jewellery and a few other bits and bobs, he was always so thoughtful with his selection of my gifts. We were also very good at picking great stocking stuffers. Over the years most of our gift exchanges went back and forth in a box less than the size of a shoebox. I told Jamie he had one more gift that he would receive on our trip to NYC. It still amazes me that he had no idea that the concert was his surprise gift.

The day of our trip came and we went into New York City with nothing really major planned. We wanted to sight see, eat lunch, meet a friend and generally just bum around the city. We went way down to The Village for food and shopping and when it came time to take a cab back up town to catch the concert there were none that were available. We tried for a good half an hour and I began to panic. Jamie had no idea why I was getting upset but I knew the concert start time was drawing near. Finally we got a cab and I was relieved. I asked the cabbie to stop on the corner so we had about half a block to walk. I wanted to show him the concert marquee to let him know what his gift was. When we were within sight of the marquee I pointed to it. Glowing in red it said “TONIGHT: THE PIXIES” and I said Merry Christmas! Jamie looked confused and then he realized what was going on. We were going to see the show and he was thrilled. He hugged me and we all started to walk across the street. Jamie had his arm around me and I felt his weight begin to get heavy and I realized he was going down… literally. I stopped and had him sit on the curb to get composed. He was THAT excited. I couldn’t believe that I had pulled it off.

Jamie was able to pull it together rather quickly and we went into the venue. The show was amazing but not as amazing as hearing Jamie scream like a girl a few times, he denies this but I cherish it. He loved the show and I loved seeing him so happy even though there was the pull that I had to resist again. We were up front in a standing room only venue and it was so good. He was so close to me that it was almost painful to not be holding his hand at the very least. I, to this day, do not understand what held me back. Jamie was respecting my space as he always did, not knowing how I really felt. The concert ended and Jamie had a blast. We both agree that it was the best Christmas present ever. I have often wondered how I could top that.

The rest of our time together was nice. We had dinner with friends and enjoyed time with my family. We did a lot and a lot of nothing but being together. It was a good visit all in all. There was still a longing on both our parts to be together that overshadowed us. I knew at the time that I was confused and wanted to be more but I couldn’t see how. How after all of this time could things possibly change? Jamie has since informed me that he felt the exact same way. Although the trip was a good one it left me feeling sad. How could I love someone this much and not be meant to be with him? How could I get over this feeling that made me sick with longing? I made excuses to myself, ran into a relationship with yet another wrong guy, threw myself into finishing my Master’s Degree and I missed my best friend more than ever. x heather

September 27, 2011
by heather

When I write…

When I sit down to write the posts on my relationship with Jamie it always hits me… the pain. The pain of the why’s, the what if’s, the hurt, the longing, the loss. I sit and sob… I truly lose myself in the times. I can still feel the regret or the anger and yes, the  joy. I love him so much and always have and I sometimes fear he will never know how much. We have truly been through a lifetime of experience that has come with many disappointments and hurts that just won’t let me go.

As I sit crying, always asking Jamie for forgiveness, I wonder why? As he kisses away my tears and soothes my broken spirit I ask out loud, “Why do I write this blog? Why do I put myself through this?”  Why do I continually tear open the wounds of  the past when there is so much good to remember and to look forward to? Why can’t I focus on that? I sometimes do not know. I think that we have a true fairytale love story as corny as that sounds it is true. But in order to be honest with myself and my readers I need to admit that it was not all sweetness and love and moonlight it was dirty and painful and real. The information you get here is as honest and forthcoming as I can make it  while still respecting my husband’s wishes. There are some things that Jamie and I want to just remain between us so… who is this for?

I sometimes think I write it because it is real. It is a real love story in a world that needs them so badly. This world where no one waits for 15 minutes let alone 15 years. I write it because I want people to know the gift that I have been given and I want to shout how lucky I am it at the top of my lungs. I write it for the children we will have. I write it for my husband. I write it for you. Most importantly I think that I write it for me. Even though I feel the pain of these years so profoundly I think that maybe writing this blog will help heal me. Maybe it will help me let go of the regrets and things that I can not change. My Love always tells me and I agree, we would not be who we are without the things that we have gone through. The good and the bad have made us the strong, honest, fearless and loving partners that we are. I write this for me… I want to see past the pain. I want to let go of the regrets and grab ahold of my husband.  x heather


September 26, 2011
by heather

Through Thick and Thin.

My friendship with Jamie stayed very strong over the years. We talked on Messenger and over the phone, exchanged birthday and Christmas presents, I visited Scotland and we talked about the future… our future together. We  could not picture a future where we were not together. There was no mistaking that Jamie loved me. His feeling were strong and true. They were the one thing that I always relied on. He was the very best thing in my life but he was so far away that being together seemed like a dream. He did not have a stable job yet and I was in grad school. We loved each other but how to make it work… we didn’t know.

In the summer of 2003 Jamie was a bit blue. He was in a major transition phase in his life and he was confused and sad. It was very hard for me to see my best friend feeling so lost. I wanted to be there for him but I couldn’t. I wanted to be able to sit there with him while he worked it out like I did when he was writing his thesis in 2001. I couldn’t be there physically this time but I could be there. The one evening I asked him, “What would make you happy?” I wanted to make him think about what it was that he wanted to do. He had decided it was not Bio-Chemistry but what, what was it that he wanted to do? We talked on Messenger for hours and it lead to us looking at different university courses. He considers it was when I kicked his ass but I think of it as a loving kick.

I always told Jamie he could be anything he wanted to be. I knew he would be amazing when he found something he was passionate about. He needed confidence… he needed to see himself the way I did. He would get there.  By the Autumn he was enrolled at Stirling University doing an M.Sc. in Information Technology. He had found “it” and I had been there to help give him the nudge. He had been there for me so many times through bad break-ups and difficult times. There were many tear-filled phone calls to Jamie. He was always able to calm me down and focus me… he was my center through so many rough patches, it was nice to be able to be his for a change.

By the winter of 2003 we were convinced that enough was enough, we needed to be together. I was going to be in Scotland over the holidays because my best girlfriend was studying in London for one term and I was going to go get her and take her to Scotland. I told Jamie of my plan to get Holly. We again spent hours on Messenger. We planned it, thought about it all the time and even dreamed about seeing each other again but with a new purpose…starting a life together. We had a relationship, we had love, we had honesty, we had everything except the same piece of land. We were going to start somewhere and we decided it was time for our first kiss…our first kiss as adults as boyfriend and girlfriend. We had kissed before when we were kids but not with plans for our future on the line. We knew this was going to be the beginning of the rest of our life together. We were going to meet in the park between his house and the place I was staying we could picture it so perfectly.

Holly and I arrived in Alva to “my home”. The Mennie’s had become parents to me and when I wanted to visit Scotland that was home away from home. I called Jamie and told him I had arrived. My heart was pounding out of my chest. I was so nervous and excited and sick. I wanted this to work. I wanted to be with someone genuine, someone honest, a good man… I had been with so many that were none of the above. I doubted my strength and my worth. How could he love me? Why me? He is so amazing and beautiful and wonderful, why would he want me? My nerves got the best of me and I asked Holly to accompany me into the park to meet Jamie and when she said yes I immediately regretted asking. I was embarrassed to have her there to see me kissing Jamie. But what to do? Jamie and I locked eyes on each other and when we finally met I ruined it… I said “I can’t do this.” I meant in front of Holly and he thought I meant at all. This will become one of the biggest misunderstandings we will ever have. He was shattered and I was confused by his reaction. We were not talking things out like we were so good at over the phone or on the computer. What happened? Our communication was gone, again.

The rest of the trip was awful. I was angry that he would not really talk to me. He was with us but would not engage in any meaningful conversation and was really awkward around me. I think that over the years of being dumped on I created a defence mechanism of being a bitch. I would hide my pain by acting like I didn’t care. I am ashamed to say, I was genuinely mean to him but on the inside I was dying. I was thinking that I didn’t understand. He didn’t give me a chance to explain my comment…see I wasn’t worth it. I didn’t know it until October of 2010 but he was feeling the same thing. He was as insecure about my feelings as I was about his but his insecurities came with silence.

After a few awkward months we had somehow smoothed back in to our routine of emailing a few times a week and talking about everything like we usually did. We had managed to not obliterate our friendship but we did put our relationship out of our heads. Again it seemed that we were meant to be best friends. There for one another through thick and thin but not meant to be together. x heather

September 15, 2011
by heather

Picking up the pieces.

When Jamie and I discuss how we began to talk again in 1999 we really don’t know. We have our theories but we are just not sure. We both agree that it had to be me that initiated the correspondance again. I am always the one that gets back in touch after one of our breaks. You will read that we have had a few. I am the one that would crack first saying I can’t live with out him or I miss him too much… so that is the theory, we are sticking with it.

What happened this year was a foreshadowing of things to come for us. Jamie came to State College in March of 1999 where I was in my senior year at Penn State University. We had a few days in the snow in State College which were so much fun. I had just gotten a puppy, my Bradley Beagle, and we played and played in the snow with him. Nothing was awkward with our interactions. Had we really fixed our friendship? Were we actually going to be ok?

We decided to take a detour through Amish country on our way home to visit my parents in Wilkes-Barre. We got lost, didn’t see anything great and took a pictures in a random places with the dog… we didn’t care we were together. It was so good to be with him again. It felt natural and easy. How had we missed out on this in Glasgow last year? Why couldn’t we have made this happen before? Being friends was easy, we were good at this. Nothing complicated, nothing sad or hard to deal with… it was bliss. It was us the way we were supposed to be.

We made it to Wilkes-Barre and had a really great few days with my family. We had fancy lunches, long conversations and then…the trip into The City. New York…New York. It was cold and it was magic. I had always loved NYC but this time it was different I was with Jamie and we were experiencing this together. The vibe, the smells, the roasted coconut from the street vender it was all magic. We knew we would come back together one day. It was one of those trips that just sticks with you. It left me with feelings of hope and freshness and above all else possibilities. It was a feeling that I longed to repeat with him.

So happy together!

We had a wonderful time together. It was almost like the summer of 96 minus the cuddles. We both look back on it now and say the cuddles were definitely missing. There is a twinge of regret that goes along with this visit. We now admit we had so much we wanted to say but didn’t because we didn’t want to ruin this time. It was so good to be together and we wanted to leave the past in the past, we were happy now and that was what mattered. We had found our way back to each other and we knew that is where we belonged… we were supposed to be friends forever.

x heather

September 10, 2011
by heather

How I dealt with Helplessness.

Over the past few days I have felt more helpless than any time in my entire life. I am here in Scotland and my parents and brother are in North East PA and Upstate NY. Not only is my family there but so are my best friends. I am for the most part cut off from them unless there is a miracle that we meet on Skype unexpectedly or they respond asap to one of my text messages. There is the nice occasional planned meeting for a talk but why is this all important? Well, Mother Nature is why.

I am always there for my family and friends and since Thursday I have been utterly helpless to do anything for them. I feel as though I have truly been tested in my resolve to stay here. For those of you who do not know, my parents are my everything. My family has ALWAYS been the key element in my life. Yes I have gained a wonderful family here in Scotland but the parents that made me needed me and I couldn’t be there. I watched as the river swelled and broke, as homes were destroyed and no one would answer the phone. I couldn’t get answers from my family or friends that were scattered all over the region. All I saw were the pictures. Bloomsburg was under water… How were Shawn and his family? Shickshinny and Nanticoke… How were Jeanann and her family. Sunbury and Selinsgrove…. How were Heidi and her Gram? Where was Sara? Was she in Wilkes-Barre? Is she ok? Is Holly evacuated? I didn’t know, I didn’t know, I didn’t know! Worse than that all was that I had no clue what was going on in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Where was my Dad? How were the dogs? How was my Mom? I was cut off. The news was not updating fast enough and all I saw devastation. I frantically sent out messages on Facebook asking for anyone to update me on their whereabouts and condition. Nothing. Nothing!

Finally I heard from one friend, then another and another… My mother got in touch with me on Skype and updated me that things were getting bad in my neighborhood and an evacuation was likely. I wanted to be home to help. I wanted my father to not be stressed out. Where was he going to go with the two dogs. I kept thinking that it didn’t matter if I was there and I had to be evacuated, I would have been there with my family and I would have known what was happening.

When my father assured me he was going to be out of the house with the dogs by 1PM on Thursday and safe at my brothers I began to breathe easier but how was my Mom in Upstate NY? She was not able to be home with my father and that was stressful but they were both safe and things could be replaced.

When my father had reached my brother’s home my focus changed. I turned to Facebook and the local PA news channels. I found a page that updated with cold hard facts every few minutes and debunked the rumors that were spreading as fast as the water was rising. I began to pay attention to everything I could find and had Skype on so people could call. I couldn’t be there but I could be reached and I could know what was happening. I let my self cry but did not get hysterical, what would that have helped. Information was the key.

Yesterday I found that the TV channel I used to work for, WBRE, had moved and was streaming live. I was right there. I could see my streets and I could see the water. I watched and cried and then paid attention. It was all I could do. Pay attention and keep the life line open. Seeing my bridge like this was so hard. Knowing my home was in such danger hurt so badly. The place I had lived for 23 years. The streets I have walked thousands of times were now becoming part of the river.

The river right behind my house and my father's church. Market and River Streets. Courtesy of a WBRE viewer.

Keep walking past the eagles and you will come to my house. Courtesy of a WBRE viewer.

People touched base with me all day. On the live stream I could see the shots of the river and watch the water levels rise and then finally begin to fall. Helplessness turned to hopefulness. Wilkes-Barre was safe but so many people that I know were effected by the disaster.

Today things are getting back to normal. Some cities are still well under water, others are in cleanup mode and yet others are still not allowed home. I too will get back to normal but when? I love my life. I am so lucky but when will it get easier to be separated from my home? Should it get easier? Maybe it is better if it never does. I have so much love for my family and friends. I don’t want to not worry about them.

Throughout this helpless experience I have learned that it is ok to worry but accept that I can’t change things. It is ok to cry to relieve the stress but don’t lose grip on the reality of the situation. I can handle anything as long as I can focus on getting the information. I may not have been there physically but I was there with them all and they knew I was watching, listening and praying… and I still am.  x heather

September 6, 2011
by heather

The Rough Patch

What to say about my year in Glasgow…1997-1998? It was up and down as most of life’s experiences are. I made some amazing friends with whom I am still close, but I nearly lost the most important one. My year in Glasgow opened up so many doors to new opportunities and experiences. I was incredibly happy at times and felt completely alone at others. I did learn a lot about myself but my relationship with Jamie was smashed to pieces.

This is a year we would both like to forget happened. Our interactions went from awkward to unbearable to nonexistent. It was so painful and we were stupid then, so stupid. Immaturity and ignorance really took its toll on us. We both had a lot to learn and I was being selfish. I wanted to be free to live and make my mistakes. I didn’t want him to be around to watch and get hurt, I really did love him I just didn’t know what that love meant yet. He didn’t know how to express himself when I was there and the frustration got the best of him at times. We both made mistakes but I am the one that pushed him away completely.

When we talk about this year in our history it still hurts me… understatement… crushes me. When I had pushed, and he went, I missed him desperately. I didn’t know how to fix it, I didn’t know what to do so…I sometimes found myself standing under his window just willing myself to ring the bell. I would see his light on and wonder if he missed me as much as I missed him. It turns out that he did. It was like part of me died. As dramatic as it sounds, sometimes there were no more tears. There was a hole where he had been. I missed my best friend and he was right there…right there and I couldn’t be with him. The words had failed us and he was gone.

Excuse me while I get a tissue and a hug.  x heather

August 5, 2011
by heather

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

To say that 1996 into 1997 was one of the best and also one of the worst years of my life would be fair. This is a really difficult period to write about but it is a major part of the story. It is something that I procrastinated writing about because it still hurts. I hope that getting these next few years out of my mind will help heal some of the pain that lingers in me. Jamie and I always say, the things we went through are what brought us to where we are now. We truly believe that we would not be where we are without what we have been through with each other. So here comes the rain.

During the time that I had spent with Jamie in Alva for the summer we knew that we were going to keep in touch, that was never going to be an issue. Little did I know though, I had just acquired the best pen pal alive. Jamie was so dedicated to writing to me that it compelled me to always return the letters. This was when email was just becoming popular, 10 cent/min international phone calls didn’t exist and instant messaging was just being created so, how did we become such good friends without the modern conveniences that we take for granted now a days? With patience… a lot of patience.

When the letters started coming they just didn’t stop. When Jamie sent me something it was not just one letter but several at a time,each were pages long letters. They were full of nothing and everything, thoughts and dreams, memories and plans for the future and they were everything to me. I would read and re-read these letters. I began to write back and this is when things really started happening between us.

After a while we got email going. I was personally terrified of the computer especially the Internet. I thought I would hit the wrong button and be stuck somewhere and lose my soul. Hahaha, but seriously I was daunted by the thought of email. I couldn’t even figure out how to work my email at Penn State, how was I going to talk to Jamie in Scotland? At the time thankfully I had a family account that my Mom set up for us. I didn’t really need to think about it much so because my Mom would call out “Heath, you have an email from Jamie” when I got a message. I would rush in and read it and smile and wish I could talk to him more often. With trepidation, I began to look for these emails myself, when I woke up, when I got home from class and right before I went to bed. I looked forward to these emails like they were attached to my next breath. We spent hours and hours talking. I missed meals and Jamie missed sleep but nothing really seemed to matter. We wanted to spend as much time together as we could manage and we made it happen.

I am not sure how it happened but we decided that one day we were going to have a conversation using the computer… unheard of! We sat down at a designated time and started sending one or two line emails to each other and then waiting…waiting… waiting for a response from the other. We got really good at this. There were times when the conversation would split into two or three topics in various emails but we managed to keep up and even make each other laugh. We talked about mundane things like how was our day, what happened in class and did we see any good movies? We also talked about our moon (the way we could still feel connected) and our last kiss. Then something new got invented, or at least loaded onto my computer… ICQ…instant messaging. When it worked it was amazing but on a whole it a mess! The “instant messaging” was more of a frustration than waiting ages for an email reply. Having bugs was an understatement. We were old pros at talking when we wanted to so we would often give up on ICQ and go back to emails.

After several months I realized I was spending more time with Jamie then I was with my friends in the States. Then it happened, one night when we were discussing grand ideas for what our futures would hold and where we would be he said it, I knew it was coming, I knew it would crush me and I knew I wanted it… he said “I love you.” I exhaled and began to weep. I wanted to be loved so badly by someone so amazing but he was a million miles away and things were so hard. It didn’t seem to make a difference though. He gave me butterflies and he made me think about things differently, I was totally in love and totally confused.

Our conversations had to turn serious at some point. I had it in the works to go to Glasgow University for a year long study abroad. He was not originally in my plans, I had my mind wrapped up in other things and I couldn’t see how he could fit in, even though I wanted him to. What would happen with us? Would we stay friends? Well, it got hard…very very hard. I was young and living in the land of romance novels and greener grass, or just plain stupid. However you look at it, I didn’t use my head because I had lost my heart to another idea before Jamie told me he loved me and before I had fallen for him. I was about to break my best friends heart and my own.  x heather