Sunday, October 30, 2011

1600 People and 2 Perfect Seat-Mates

Last Sunday, my cousin, Cam Christian, went to heaven. And then I went to Seattle.

The days in between his death and my flight home are fuzzy. I worked, booked my plane ticket, kissed my husband, and found myself at the Edinburgh Airport in a row of strangers, awaiting the call to board a KLM flight.

Anxious about flying alone internationally, I thought about my family. I could do it for them. My flight to Amsterdam behind me,  I sat in my seat on the plane to Seattle, home. I began a Sudoku, and then Susie sat next to me. After a little interviewing from the  Amsterdam security guards, my emotions ran high. I began telling this woman about Cam, my nervous stomach, and before I could finish, she told me she was a Seattle University professor for 28 years. Cam was the captain of Seattle U's baseball team.

Coincidence? I don't think so.

 Did the Lord use her to bless me? Yes.

My dad picked me up, and zombie-like, I walked into my parent's house. My mom and sister greeted me, along with the two cutest boys in my world, Brayden and baby Ryan. Then, I went to sleep!

I don't think I'll ever forget walking into the Auburn High School Performing Arts Center. 1600 people sat somberly, all impacted by my cousin. Awesome.

More than that, I watched my Aunt Debbie lift her hands in praise to God singing, "Because He Lives." I watched my Uncle Lynn read a beautiful letter to his son, now with Jesus. And I watched my cousins publicly remember their brother and acknowledge their trust in God. They are my heroes.

The closeness that occurred with my family last week is irreversible, and I am so thankful for each of them.

After kissing my nephews too many times to count, drinking Starbucks with my mom, chatting with my dad, and spending a day with my favorite in-laws, my trip ended.

I was on a plane again, sitting next to another woman, who quietly accompanied me on the 10 hour flight. She chatted with me over meals, and then napped or watched movies. After having a mentally exhausting week, this silence was GOLDEN.

Garrick walked into the airport, grinning, and brought me back to our little flat on Langlands Road. I thought I went home to Seattle, but I realize that Scotland is my new home. And I'm content.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cameron John Christian: Christ-Follower, Left-Fielder, and Funny-Man

"Cameron died in a car accident."

I've never repeated words in my head as many times as those.

And I still don't believe it.

Just last Christmas he sat in one of the two swiveling chairs in my grandparent's living room. Always slouched and wearing athletic apparel, his eyes were bright and he laughed, head tipped back, at one of Uncle Dan's jokes. There will never be another moment like this.


Cameron's last name suits him. It defines his life. Christian. For some, this is the only comfort in his death. He is in the presence of the almighty God, and is loving it. We are left behind, to live our lives without our Cameron.

He was blessed to be the son of Lynn and Debbie, who shared the story of Jesus with him at a young age. He made it clear that he loved God, even got a matching brother tattoo of a cross on his back with Psalm 56:4 underneath:

            In God, whose word I praise,
            in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
            What can flesh do to me?

Cameron desired to know God and to live and life in response to his son, Jesus. It's clear to me and also his family and friends.


Cameron attended Auburn High School and was a varsity starter on the baseball team three years in a row. This year, his teammates on Seattle U's basbeall team nominated him captain.

I remember going to watch him pitch at Safeco Field for the high school state championship game in 2007.  He delivered his pitches methodically, and proved intimidating for batters.

His facebook page is a collection of memories and praises of his career as #21:

"Baseball lost a great athlete and we lost a great person. See you on the other side with cathedrals for baseball parks and sunshine every day."

"Cam you were a great coach for my brother and his friends this last summer. You were such a big part of our family. I will always remember the yearly Auburn sleepover tradition we did every year with all you guys. We all love you and miss you already."
"I'll never forget the awesome times we shared playin' ball and barn-storming all across the united states. You were a class athlete and a great friend. I am grateful for having met you. May you rest in peace. You'll never be forgotten. Much love 21, Much love."

Even his coach, Donny Harrel praised him in an interview with the Seattle times:

"He was an incredible young man who was just coming into his own." He even added that Cameron had a future in professional baseball. I believe it.


Did Cameron ever make you laugh? I don't think there is one person who could answer "no." He always found humor in everyday situations, and wasn't afraid to poke fun at himself either.  Most of my memories include finding creative ways to entertain ourselves during boring family get-togethers. Whether it be hide-and-seek, playing Barbies, (yes, Barbies,) or in our later years, filling each other in on our lives, he loved to have a good time. His friends remember his humor:

"Man, I'm gonna miss sitting next to you in class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Your jokes made my day and you were one of the most real people I've ever met. Class won't be the same without you."

"Mere words will never express the sadness that is felt after losing a great young man like Cam.  Always a smile on his face and a hug. My heart is heavy and my prayers go out to the Christian family. The Auburn community grieves with you."

"... you were someone who changed people for the better all because u told a quick joke, gave a quick smile, said hello to someone, or your more common self, you were simply nice to someone..." 

Cameron, you've left a legacy, even at 22. You're my birthday buddy, my cousin, and my friend. Our family will never be the same, and I've thought of you every minute since I heard those terrible words. I am flying home from Scotland to hug our family and to attend your funeral. I love you.  


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Meerkat Bites and Windy Nights

That's right, there are Meerkats at the St Andrews Aquarium. Clearly not aquatic, they attract large numbers of excited patrons who have seen the Meerkat documentaries on BBC. I have to be honest, they creep me out a little as the sit on their hind legs and turn their heads from side to side and stare. Also, I don't like watching Andrew, our animal keeper, feed them dead white mice and small birds. To his complete shock, one of them bit him in the back side during a "Talk Time" where he feeds them and shares fun facts. The bite made a 50 pence sized whole in his black trousers. (Pants are underwear here.) I did not hold back my laughter and will not be going into the Meerkat exhibit anytime soon.

Why do I have a sudden interest in Meerkats? I conquered the job search. I am now a receptionist at the St Andrews Aquarium where I have the privilege of working with a view of the North Sea and the Old Course on The Scores. Yes, my four weeks of "house wife" proved necessary, but I am much happier to work with great people, and earn some quid. And yes, I do get to check out the seals, sharks, piranhas, and clown fish on occasion. As for my nerdy side-kick, he's getting up at 6 AM tomorrow to study Hebrew with a friend envies my new job.

Although the weather here is much similar to Seattle, the difference is the wind chill. My North Face fleece and jacket barely keep it away from my skin. I find that my muscles tense even to walk outside and gloves and hats are a must. As we are right on the North Sea, wind is a daily occurrence and styles my hair and dries out my skin. "Bundling up" is a fact of life here. Since we're not spending our evenings at beach bonfires, we love getting together with some of our many new friends for dinner and games. It's a great way to avoid SAD and have fun while doing it. A Scottish tour guide, in full kilt glory, came into the Aquarium with about 100 Italian tourists. After chatting awhile, he told me that his 90 year old mother lives in the Highlands and swims every day of the year in the sea. Apparently this is common. Can you imagine? I don't think I am even 1/16 Scottish. I am content to sit under my warm quilt next to the radiator and listen to the wind whistle through our gas stove.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Same Language, Different Culture

As Mark always says, "It's not bad, it's different." Born and raised in the UK, he learned this lesson a few years ago after making the trek across the ocean to marry my mother-in-law. I'm learning it now and it's not easy.

Even though we speak the same language, (with the exception of a few spellings and a few extra words,) the UK and the US are different countries. That's obvious, just look at a map. But I always considered them very similar, like siblings. Lately, I've realized they're more like 3rd cousins.

Yes, things are "less fast" here, but I think it's more accurate to say that the pace of life is different. For instance, our thermostat was original to the house, so our heating wouldn't turn on. Luckily, it was pretty hot for Scotland and in the low 60's, so we didn't freeze. A repair man came out about 5 days after we sent a maintenance request and he was worth the wait. Not only did he give us an extensive explanation about how our heating system works, he also shared about his family and life. We chatted for about a half hour and then remembered it's polite to offer guests coffee or tea. He kindly refused and left us with his name and told us to please call him if we need anything at all.

We had the pleasure of having lunch on Sunday with the Broem's. Our church service at Trinity ran late due to technical difficulties, (it's a very relaxed environment there,) and we were late. Garrick and I both were a little panicked, but upon arriving, we soon realized this was an all afternoon event. This was no 45 minute Red Robin lunch. We received a full tour of their beautiful cottage, sat down to a cheese board and drinks in the living room,  and a few hours later moved into the dining room and ate a delicious meatloaf and pear supper. After dessert and tea, we left at 6:00 PM. The conversation was encouraging, humorous, and very stimulating.

This slow pace has been emphasized in my life, as I am currently unemployed. Just to give you an idea about the job market here, there are about 80-90 people, (mainly students,) applying for every opening. Now, that will change as school picks up and students realize they don't have time to work, and as stores hire for the holidays. Meanwhile, I have a bit more time than I'm used too, but I am trying to find contentment in my new life.

On Saturday I attended a "Survive and Thrive in Scotland" group for spouses of post-grads. I made my way to one of the many beautiful churches in St Andrews and walked into a little room filled with desserts, coffee, tea, and a circle of chairs. Soon, about 15 women filled the room, strangers. But within 5 minutes, we were friends. We share a very unique bond, and many said that this group has become family. I found out everything from where to find canned pumpkin, to common health care questions, and what to do when homesickness strikes in January. Big surprise, a common observation of almost every newbie was that things just take longer here. And those who've been here a few years just smiled and said, "Yes they do."

Tonight, Garrick has the opportunity to earn some extra cash painting with our neighbor, and I am free to write, clean, and listen to any music I want! (The popular rain/wind combo is going on outside, so I'm staying indoors.)  I'm excited to incorporate a slower pace into my life, and am thankful for learning lessons, no matter how challenging.