The sun is hitting the left side of my face and it’s actually uncomfortably hot for the first Sunday in October in London.

I picked out this long-sleeved shirt to wear today because it’s been cold the last few days and we still haven’t quite figured out how radiators work. But I’m already sweating through it and all I’m doing is sitting here with the sun on half my face, and my eyes closed, and the silence filling my ears like my favorite blanket.

I realize, with a start, that I’m relaxed.

I’m actually….relaxed?



Two months earlier, I haven’t eaten breakfast and I literally woke up 5 minutes ago but I’m on the phone with reception at The Royal Central School of Such and Such in London and basically setting my bank account on fire with this international phone call while I explain, for the third time, that I still have not received my CAS.

Three little letters, C-A-S.

It’ll be the difference between a smooth and well-executed plan that’s been months in the making and an absolute dumpster fire.

What’s a CAS? Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies or something like that. I can’t get on a plane until I have a Visa and I can’t apply for a Visa until I have the CAS. The CAS was supposed to arrive in July, but it’s now August 1st. My flight leaves September 1st but it can take at least three weeks to get a visa.

Thus, why I’m shredding dollar bills with this international phone call.

And yes, I sent emails three weeks ago, pestering the kind folks working reception. I’m not afraid to be a squeaky wheel when I’ve already paid tuition and the house is half-packed and there’s a buyer lined up for our car. The response was, it’s coming, be patient, please wait.

“We’ll send an email to enquiries and see if we can get that to you as soon as possible.”

It’s in my inbox in an hour.

Sometimes, it pays to be the squeaky wheel.

Just wish I had squeaked earlier.

CAS in hand, I spend the next three days working on the Visa application, which is actually not too hard but it still requires some research to make sure I’m answering the questions properly, and Jordan and I are still working full time. We’re terrified the Visa won’t arrive in time so we take in a big gulp of air and shell out $600 for the expedited 5-day processing.


We go on our annual family vacation & reunion in the Redwoods and I sort of relax. It’s nice. But we’re also on the cusp of making one of the most difficult transitions in our entire lives so…you know. It’s nice.

Exha…nope, another inhale.

The day we get back we get our fingerprinting done and sent off and now the clock starts ticking. Two weeks and two days until our flight.

Please wait.

Please wait.

Please wait.

The five-day mark comes and goes. I’m checking my email like a fiend but there’s nothing. By Day 7 we give in and we make that international phone call to the UK Visa office.

Please wait.

Please wait.

Please wait.

After two and a half hours, when we finally connect to someone, Jordan and I almost shout for joy into the phone, and we’re rushing around our office grabbing copies of our Visa application and passports as we explain the situation.

“Yes, you should have received a decision on your Visa by now, but I can see that no decision has been made yet. I can send an email to the Sheffield office to try to see what’s going on?”

Fucking emails. Okay, yes please, please send that goddamn email. Thank you.

The embers of the dollar bills spent on that call are still smoking.

The next day we get an email – “We can confirm a decision has been made on your application, but we cannot relay over email or phone what that decision is. Please wait to receive your application items in the mail.”

Please wait.

Please wait.

Please wait.

Over the next two weeks we try to distract ourselves. I start walking every day again. Jordan has his last, tearful day of work. Then I have mine. Our resilience to any additional stress is spent. We learn that we’ve got a few hours in the morning where we’re both resourced enough to be kind and gentle with each other, and then we give each other space in the afternoons and evenings. Our code word for this is, “I need to go to Fuck-Offity Land”. It is mutually understood in that moment that we love each other, but dear god this thing we’re doing is fucking hard and it will be better for both of us if we just give each other space. There’s nothing productive that’s going to be said between the hours of 4p and bedtime.

I need to give a shout-out here to our roommate. For the month of August, our roommate lived not with two human beings, but with two raging stress balls. She patiently made us food, gave us space, helped us pack, cleaned the house and never once complained. That woman deserves a fucking medal of honor.

Thank you.

Wandering back to our ticking clock, it’s now Sunday, and our flight leaves on Wednesday. If we don’t get our Visas by tomorrow, we will need to cancel our flight, rebook our PetMoves service, delay our AirBnB, put our COVID tests on hold, and re-do our Health Certificate for Bean (the cat), which is only valid for 10 days.

Our roommate organizes a drive-by goodbye so we can safely say goodbye to our friends. They tell us they’re sending us good thoughts, prayers, and wishes. We sell off more of our furniture. We dawdle on the final packing that needs to happen.

Monday. No Visas.

Everything is put on pause. There’s a kind of relief to knowing we’re not leaving on Wednesday. That much is certain. Everyone is kind and understanding. We pack more, we ask the person buying our car if they don’t mind waiting a bit. We wait.


The Visas arrive on Wednesday in an ironic twist of fate. But of course, there is something. There is ALWAYS something, isn’t there? Jordan’s visa says he can’t work in the UK. I’m going down that rabbit hole when Jordan sits next to me quietly and when I look up he’s grinning and his eyes are wet and I feel my shoulders relax. I lean away from my laptop.

“Let’s just celebrate this. We have our Visas. We can go. We’ll deal with this when we get there, ok?”

He’s right. I know he’s right. But I’m just SO GOOD at feeling bad, you know? I excel at it.

But I inhale and I try to stay with the good feeling: We have our visas. We can get on a plane. We can go.


But we can’t hop on a plane tomorrow, because by now our cat’s Health Certificate has expired. Bean, who had her shit together well before the humans did, is now the one holding us back. Goddamn that cute-ass cat who is light of our fucking lives.

Our vet is the GOAT. She comes in during her off-hours to sign the new health certificate and we send it off. The next day I get a call from the APHIS office in Washington – “Your vet has signed in the wrong place, so we can’t endorse this certificate.”

Of course.

Of course there’s something. There’s ALWAYS something.

For whatever reason, this is the straw that breaks me. I get off the phone, and I have this floaty, out-of-body experience as I print and fill out a third set of health certificates, double and triple check them, and head to the car to drop them at the vet’s office…again.

I sit in the driver’s seat.

I stare at our garage door.

And the exhale comes.

It comes like a tsunami. I haven’t cried in three weeks. In fact, I had been feeling pretty detached. But here it all is, everything that’s been waiting to come out.

I let it come.

I let it come because there’s simply nothing else to do.

In between bouts of crying I’m still and calm. There’s this kind voice in my head, and she just says, “Let it come, there you go. Stay with it. Feel all the things.”

This happens several times. Big, wailing, overwhelming tears, and then calm. I breathe. I wait. And then the next wave comes, and I ride it. It rides itself out. And I come up for air. I wait again.

Until I can feel that it’s all out.

At some point during this Jordan has come to stand by the driver’s side window, just waiting, and watching me. When I’m done, I look at him and I say, “I probably shouldn’t drive right now.” I ask if he’s willing to drop off the papers, and he says yes.

He pulls out of the driveway. I go upstairs. I wrap a blanket around me and I sit on our mattress, which is sitting on the floor of a room filled with packed suitcases. I text my Mom because what I really need right now is a Mom. And she’s there, and she stops her errand-running to park in a parking lot so that she can listen to me and talk to me and comfort me. I smile a little and we finish and I hang up. I put on a tv show, I can’t even remember which one, and that’s all I do for the rest of the day. I sit and I watch tv and I eat a little and my body has needed this so, so badly.


The third vet health certificate gets sent. It’s endorsed. We rebook our flight, we let our Air BnB host that we will be there September 10th, and we ask PetMoves to reschedule our Eurotunnel ticket.

“Sorry, we’re not available until Tuesday.”

No no no no no, come on Mira, work with me here. Help me out just a little bit. We need to get from Paris to London and you are my final link in the chain. Please, please please please, help us.

“Ok, we don’t normally like to do this, but Pino can pick you up but you will need to put some of your suitcases in the front seat.”

Mira, I will put myself inside one of our suitcases if need-be, THANK YOU, and THANK FUCKING GOD, yes please pick us up in anything that has four wheels and is cat-friendly.

We haven’t slept in three days, and the night before we leave is no different. Running on fumes, we pile ourselves and our cat and our five suitcases into my roommate’s car and she drives us to the airport on Thursday, September 9th.

The next 24 hours are a blur.

We’re hugging our roommate and waving goodbye and trying to figure out how to get a cart that will fit all our suitcases.

The person at the front desk is asking us for paperwork and I’m pulling it out of my yellow folder, months of preparation paying off.

I’m hastily shoving a muffin behind my mask that really deserves better than this mouth-to-stomach treatment as it dawns on my that this is the first time I’ve been in an airport since the start of COVID.

We take our assigned seats which we’re thrilled to see are in the Comfort+ section (leg room!!), only to be reseated in the Main Cabin when the staff see that we have a cat with us.

The flight lifts off and we pull Bean in her carrier into our laps so that we can hold her and stroke her and remind her, and ourselves, that everything is going to be ok.

We make it to our stopover. There’s a pet room that’s clearly designed for dogs (complete with artificial grass and fire hydrant) but it’s 9pm local time and no one’s in there, so I sit against the door and we let Bean out of her carrier. She explores the room with wide eyes and shaky legs. She lets me pet her but she doesn’t want food or water, and she doesn’t pee in the travel litter box we put out. I don’t blame her, I’m hyped up on adrenaline and that’s about the only thing fueling me right now.

We get on our flight to Paris. I’ve stuffed a pillowcase with a blanket and multiple sweatshirts but it’s not enough to let me sleep. Jordan gets a handful of snores in. Bean’s calming drugs wear out about halfway through the flight, and she’s punchy. I pull her carrier into my lap and she settles. I watch movies and pull my sleep mask over my eyes and listen to the sounds of all of us breathing behind our masks.

We’re in Paris. A security agent takes me and Bean into a private room to examine her bag. Another security agent gets very excited when they find four zip locked bags of a granular substance found in Jordan’s bag, only to register immense disappointment when they realize it’s cat litter.

We approach the border. This is a big moment. I have Bean’s EU Health Certificate ready to go in my yellow folder. Getting this certificate delayed us almost ten days. I cried over this goddamn certificate.

I’m signaled to approach. I give the agent my visa. They are deeply engaged in the conversation they’re having in rapid-fire French with their friends. So much so that they barely glance at my passport, and when I open my mouth to ask about the cat in the carrier I’m holding, and whether they need to see her paperwork, they dismiss me with a wave of their hand and signal for the next person in line to come forward. Wide-eyed and nervous and exhausted, I do what I’m told. I shut my mouth and no one ever sees that goddamned health certificate.

We find Pino and we all squeeze into his car. Pino is Italian, and he is warm and funny and tells us that we can let Bean roam the car while we drive, so we do. Pino has done this a million times knows exactly where to take us. My adrenaline runs out and I finally sleep for about twenty minutes.

We arrive at the English border and here I finally get to present Bean’s UK health certificate. It’s looked over and handed back to us with a bored, “Ok, you’re good.”

Jordan praises me and my yellow folder. “That was months of work,” I say proudly, “For five minutes of ease.”

That was it. That was the final hurdle. We can now go to London.

My shoulders lighten.


I’m in and out of sleep on the six-hour drive to London. At one point Bean crawls into my lap, and I put my sweatshirt over her, and she seems to settle. I’m cradling her as Pino takes sharp turns and curses British traffic. Jordan warmly rests a hand on my knee or my hand or simply smiles tiredly at me.

So close.

We arrive at our Air BnB. It’s about 8pm local time. Pino waves goodbye and we head up the stairs to our little flat. It’s clean and there’s a bed – for now, that’s enough. We set out Bean’s litter tray, food, and water, and we let her out. She wanders the room like she’s taking notes on her new home and then has the longest pee of any cat ever.

I sleep for fourteen hours.

When I wake up, the exhale starts.

There’s still hills we have to climb – we need to start looking for a permanent flat, and get our BRP cards, and figure out Jordan’s work issue – but these are hills and we’ve been climbing mountains. The next two weeks are hard but the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. We find mold in the AirBnB bathroom and on the underside of the mattress, so we end up sleeping/eating/living in just the tiny living & kitchen space. But this means that when I walk into Flat 2 in the big beautiful brick building on Minster Road, it feels far more spacious than it should. My heart is captured by the high ceilings and the freshly painted walls, the original wood flooring and modern kitchen and bathroom, but mostly, my heart leaps at sun coming through the floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door that leads to a small patio.

That sun hits the left side of my face and I’m warmer than I should be on a Sunday in October in London.

I fully exhale.

The next breath is what I came for: Class.

Class starts next week. With survival needs finally getting met, I can feel my creative gears slowly shake off their rust and begin finding their rhythm again.

Will I be able to find my first class? Will the UK let Jordan work?

Stay tuned.

With all my love,