Welcome back to my introduction thankfully, this part is a bit more upbeat than the first part. As I mentioned in part one, I started looking into my genealogy in my late 20's. I had a few notes that my mom had left from talking with her mom, and a lot of things from my dad's side. I always knew that my dad's side was German, so I was able to find where my great grandparents emigrated to the states in the 1890s and before. I also was able to learn quite a bit about my mom's side which I think she would have loved to had learned about.
My maternal grandmother had two immigrant patents. My great grandmother Agnes Cogle from Shetland and Samuel Currie from Northern Ireland. The most interesting part of Agnes's story was unknown to me until I took a closer look at the details. Agnes left Shetland where she and as many generations as I can find (currently 1671 is my earliest verified ancestor in Shetland), in 1908 at the age of 33. This was the less than a year after her mother died at the age of 74. Agnes' father had died 5 years before, and all of her brothers and sisters save one had married or moved to America, Australia, and other parts of Scotland. She was on a her own for the journey that took 8 days on a steamship called the Caledonia. Her name is misspelled (as many other's where) as Coghill because that's how you say Cogle. She was joining her sister Catherine that emigrated in 1902 and was living on a farm with her Irish husband in western NY. Agnes married one of the brothers of her Irish brother-in law in Oct of the following year, 1909 and had my grandma the year after and 3 other daughters too. I'm telling you all this firstly because I think it is so interesting to think about what Agnes must have been going through over a hundred years ago, and how her journey led to my grandma, my mom, and me. Secondly Agnes' story inspired me to make my own cross ocean journey. I'm so very glad I as able to fly though, as I am absolutely horrible on boats. Unless I'm doing the rowing, no matter how calm the water, I will be sick.
Now back to my story...
From about 2007 onward, while living in SC, VA, and then back to SC, I started going to some of the many local Celtic/Scottish festivals. This is how I discovered the band Albannach and fell in love with their music, and my wish to see Scotland grew even more. I had always wanted to visit the British isle but I had never been on a plane, and I had never really been on holiday alone. Albannach love being Scottish, and do guided tours of Scotland to show people their beautiful home. In 2013 while living in SC alone, I decided I would save up and go on the band's group tour for a week in April of 2014, on my own.
This was the time when I was really healthy and walking up to 20 miles a week in the hills of SC. I was also working 60 hours a week as an accountant. I still hated accounting, but I didn't know what move to make next, so I opted for a holiday I had always dreamed of. It turned out to be one of my best decisions. I had such a great time and made some really great friends that I still keep in touch with today. I was really nervous, because I'm still quite shy. I mean I can get around the world no problem, but I find it had to connect to people. In my experience, people tend to misunderstand my shyness as conceit or snobbery. I learned this at an early age, after my first and only Girl Scout multi-overnight camping trip when I was about 7 or 8. The girls from the city tried to talk to me, but I didn't know what to say so I said nothing, and they thought I was rude. Then one of them locked me in the latrine just before a hike. Luckily the councillor found me before everyone left, but I was so scarred and sad, that my mom came and got me. I only ever did one night camping with girl scouts after that, and only after getting to know the other girls for a few days first. So all these memories where definitely in my mind as I made my way to my first plane ride and solo vacation.
I was also nervous about being air sick, since I've always dealt with the aforementioned sea sickness. Turns out I love flying and just looked out the window the whole time. I had to take a plane to NJ from SC, and then onto Scotland. The company , East of the Hebrides, who run the tour are so welcoming and having a common interest, Albannach's music and Scotland, helped me find people to talk with. The tours are so fully packed of interesting and beautiful sites, that it goes by in a blur and I was exhausted after. Any Americans reading this that are looking into a vacation in Scotland should check out their site. It is a great way to see the country without having to worry about the logistics or planning. They really do pack in the activities, and having a couple of shows with the bands helps everyone have a great time, despite exhaustion.
After getting back to SC, I knew I had to try to go back to Scotland on my own and walk in the hills that I saw from the coach bus. I was still working a lot and keeping healthy, so I used some of my saving to book a short trip to hike part of the West Highland Way on my own, close to my birthday at the end of June. I'm going to do another more detailed blog post of that trip later, so keep a look out for that if you like landscape photography.
Once I got back from my wee trip, I was determined to move to Scotland. I also still really wanted to continue my education but I was unsure which direction to take. I never wanted to be an academic, but I wanted to spend my time learning and sharing my knowledge with others. This ultimately lead me to finding the Ethnology and Folklore program at the Elphinstone Institute at the University of Aberdeen. I applied on a whim for that year, thinking I wouldn't get in, but I could try again the next year. To my shock I got in, and then faced the Visa process, packing all my stuff, getting my luggage under the weight limit, and leaving my pets. The last being the most emotional, although leaving my mother's things behind was a close second(especially her hundreds of books I had been lugging all over the country for 15 years). But I had to do something. I was so depressed in the hot south alone, working a job I hated.
I can't even tell you how scarred I was to move to a different country with no home, no job, and only having been in the country twice. Thankfully, Scotland is full of lovely people willing to help others. I found a place to live and a job after a few months, before I completely ran out of money, and I really enjoyed my professors and classmates at uni. The first week of the course was a field school full of so much wonderful Scottish history and folklore. I'll be making a detailed blog for this trip as well.
The first year I was in Scotland was full of work and uni and getting to know Aberdeen and the friends I had made, it was great. Then towards the end of my Master's program, while I was writing my final thesis, I got the flu and was sick for a fortnight. I got over the flu, but my stomach never really settled. I had planned on continuing with a PhD on Scots Language at the Elphinstone Institute after I finished my Master's but my stomach was still bothering me. I eventually found out I had ulcers throughout my stomach and small intestines, but I had no diagnosis and I was unable to work on a PhD. Then another year of tests and questions saw me unable to work due to chronic pain, nausea, and fatigue. I was eventually diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and started treatment. I have been on 2 types of steroids and 5 immunosuppressants since then, and have not had any success with easing my stomach problems.
During all theses tests and trying to get a diagnosis, I was able to go to Shetland for a week in 2016 along with several camping trips that I plan on writing blogs for.
I was also really lucky to travel around Scotland in 2018 with a friend from the Albannach tour and her kids when they were visiting from the states. We packed in so many standing stones, stone circles, and museums, that I will need to write a few posts to cover all of them, so they are also coming as well.
For the last 3 years, my life has kind of been on hold. My main concerns are trying to eat enough (which is so hard when you are nausea and eating causes extreme pain), drinking enough water (hydration is important), and taking a walk every day. I only manage about 20 mins walking a day, but I hardly ever skip. I am trying so hard to get back to were I was before this illness. Luckily my illness has needed any surgery, but I struggle daily with extreme pain, nausea, and fatigue. I have lost all of my muscles built up from running, basketball, and hiking. I can't read as much as I use to which has been so hard, I use to read at least a book a week, usually two. I struggle with the grief of losing who I was before illness, but I am getting there. This is where Casey's Curio comes in.
Cross stitch has been my saving grace through all this as it was with my struggle with cutting. I may not be able work a regular job, or walk for miles, or read for hours, but I can stitch. I covered this in my first post, so if you'd like to know more about my feelings on that check out the post here.
Currently I stitch, and I take care of a very demanding cat. I make sour dough bread, since it is the only thing I can eat without pain these days. I dream of a little croft in the country with a vegetable garden and a cosy kitchen that I hope to inhabit someday, and I take one day (sometimes one hour) at a time. I do what my mom taught me to do, I keep trying and doing what I am capable of. Hopefully Casey's Curio and my creations will help me achieve this dream one day. So that is my story. Well a shorter more family (and internet) friendly version anyway. I have been through a lot in life, due to bad decisions and due to bad people, but I want the message of my story to be that you can get through it. You don't need anyone to save you, of course life is better with people, but you are always going to be your own best ally and cheerleader. Learning about yourself and being kind to people is more important than how much money you have or where you live. Knowing yourself, challenging yourself, and following your dreams can lead you amazing places. I hope you will continue following my path and enjoy the scenery along the way. Please consider signing up for my newsletter to be notified when I post a new blog. My plans for Scotland have changed due to circumstances, but I'm still happy to have achieved another step in the direction of my highland croft dream.
Until next time. Joyous stitching!