I’m delighted to have Sarah Kades as a guest on my blog today. (Please check out her website at www.sarahkades.com) Sarah is a great person and writer, full of enthusiasm for life, who I met through the Alberta Romance Writers’ Association. She’s writing about one of my favourite subjects today – Scotland – so, over to you, Sarah, with many thanks!
When Diana asked me if I would be a guest blogger, I immediately said yes. Then I wondered what in the dickens was I going to write about? First thing that popped into my head was Scotland. It is Diana’s homeland and I was lucky enough to call it home for one epic semester.
Scotland. Hearing reference to it brings a smile to my face and rekindles the joy I felt there. It is a magical place full of welcoming people and stunning landscapes. Its history, like most places, is deeply layered into its fabric. That can add to tension, but it can also add to resilience and strength. I needed resilience and strength when I was there.
The summer after I graduated from high school, I was gearing up for my freshman year at University. Before classes even started I received a brochure in the mail from the international office about the study abroad opportunities available.
What is this magic? I can go study in other countries? Where do I sign up? I headed to the office and checked out my options. There were several but three stood out; Sweden, Latvia and Scotland. Quite a mix. But there was something about Scotland that said, You need to pick me. Right now.
It happened to be the most affordable, too. Handy, that, as I was paying for my own schooling. (Thank you student loans and grants!) I applied for the following year, the soonest option available. When I was accepted I told my parents what I was doing. I don’t know exactly what was going through their heads during those conversations, but they both looked a bit shell-shocked. Now that I am older, I have a bit more perspective and can imagine the myriad of WTHs that must have been going through their heads. No one in our family traveled and I was flittering off across an ocean. My thoughts, Weeeeeeeeee!; their thoughts, Eeeeeek!
As the time came closer, my parents were divorcing and it was a rather tumultuous time in my family history. I briefly toyed with the notion of staying home. But a friend stated loudly and with much feeling; Sarah do not pass this opportunity because your parents are divorcing. You’ll regret it forever. Go!
So I went. And it was perfect. I had a series of those pinging life experiences. You know, one after another, after another, after another of experiences absolutely perfect for the course of your life. Seriously, life made sense there, and worked on so many levels. I went to class, traveled, played rugby, met wonderful people, hiked energetic and incredibly beautiful landscapes, walked down stone pathways grooved by eons of footsteps, sat on benches older than my homeland’s Constitution, danced, played and overall had the perfect time. And I met myself there. The real me, the uncensored, happy hippy kid in love with life.
Back home I had a role in my family. I’m sure others can relate. It’s not bad, it’s just, well, baggage. Family is awesome, but when you want to bust out your wings and see where you can fly, sometimes finding a new launch area is in everyone’s best interest. I’m lucky my family is supportive of my black sheep tendencies. Thanks guys!! 🙂
In Scotland, I was free to be me. I was 19; it was a great time to explore who the heck I was and who I wanted to be. Scotland gave me the opportunity, and the support system of new friends and nurturing landscapes to help me do that. And fun, oh my goodness, I laughed so much! I also gained a confidence in myself that I had never experienced before. Navigating the foreign countries for side trips, meeting other travelers from around the world, tasting new foods, smelling new air, walking paths no one from back home had heard of let alone danced on was really good for me. I was learning how to forge my own way, not because back home was bad, it just wasn’t the setting for the next chapters/books of my life.
Scotland was also a lifeline when I didn’t even realize I needed one, teaching me that resilience and strength I mentioned above. A writer friend once asked why can’t adult children of divorced parents just get over it? When she asked, my first feeling was offense at her insensitivity. Maybe now I can shed some light. Just like the history of a country, the history of a family is woven. It is the blanket you know. Pull out some strings and the blanket is not the same. Reweave those strings into a new pattern and they might flow seamlessly, creating a beautiful new picture or pattern, different, but still a warm, functioning blanket. Or pull out strings and the whole damn thing snags. Forget about a pattern or picture, getting the knots out needs to happen first. Finessing those snags and knots back to smooth might happen in short order for some families, or it can take years, if ever.
As serendipity and my writing muses (i.e. my loud, adorable characters) would have it, I started writing The Tanner Series, five books featuring a family torn apart by divorce and old secrets. Now to be clear, my experience as an adult kid of divorced parents didn’t include CSIS agents or European crown princesses or bull riders, but this series is awesome to write. 🙂 I hope those who read it find each book filled with love, humor, compassion and healing, in all areas of life. For more information, available titles, and/or to subscribe to my newsletter for release dates, check out www.sarahkades.com).
Scotland provided me with a sense of home and community while the one I knew back home was snagging. It also gave me the opportunity to let myself be welcomed into friends’ family-groups. A skill that has served me, and my Canadian husband, well throughout our travels and all the places we’ve called home.
To our adopted families all over, Thank You. To one of my adoptive homes, Scotland, Thank You. You welcomed me in with open arms and kept hugging. Thanks! To my parents and siblings and Wisconsin, thanks for the amazing foundation you provided, along with continuing hugs. Those were/are epic chapters of my life and I can fly now because of them. 🙂
Happy Travels! Happy Reading!