Thursday, March 19, 2020

Oh 2020....

Seriously. We had such hope for you.  I mean.... 2020. The future. The greatest year. So much hope and promise, amirite?

January took about a year in my world.  Ian was having challenging stuff  with the walls burning, and the month just wouldn't end.

February was decent in my world.  Ian was here for most of it and we saw Katherine and Nicholas, and then Jonathon in the UK, and it was just nice and peaceful.

March started and you know the rest, not just for my world but all of our worlds. Ian went back and things continued to blow up -literally- over there and at the same time blow up -in a different sense- everywhere else.

It's been a long, long year.  And we're only in March.  Everyone is being impacted differently.

Jonathon is doing his classes on-line.  The UK is one of the few places that hasn't closed all their universities.  He's living in his dorm and doing his work. It helps that spring break starts next week so a lot of the kids were already going home this week, and they'll all be gone for the next month on break.  That may have played a role in why the school didn't just close up.

Nicholas's training in Norway has been canceled? Delayed? Who knows.  But rather than being out of the country for 6 months, he's now essentially confined to base, if not to barracks, in NC.  He is not happy.

Rebecca's school has moved all classes on-line which is rather hard for an arts school where most of the majors are hands-on, workshop, and program related.  The dorms closed, but she only has 2 classes left and she lives off-campus, so she's hunkered in Savannah.  But the worst kick in the teeth for her.... her college graduation/commencement has been canceled. There's no way to not make that hurt.

Katherine works in a service industry and she's sick. She called her doctor to request testing, they couldn't help her.  She called the MD Health office, they couldn't help her.  Everyone told her to go to the ER. So she did, and they put her in isolation while they ran tests and checked her lungs, because yes, she is really sick.  She came back positive for RSV, and there the tests stopped. They didn't test her for COVID.  She picked up prescriptions and is staying home.  As we learn more about how the 20-45 range is a nice big chunk of those falling ill, it totally makes sense not to test someone for the pandemic virus who's sick in your waiting room /sarcasm.

I am still going in to work. I take the Metro there and back but there are so few people now that it's easy to not touch anything and sit 6 feet away from folks, and I sit 6 feet away from my nearest co-worker in the office too.  But hey, the 3rd floor in my building was shut down today due to a positive COVID result in one of the offices there, so yeah, don't touch the elevator buttons.

The bright side, if you can call it that, is that today with the gorgeous weather I walked around downtown and had some time with Ian showing him the cherry blossoms and the empty sidewalks. There were plenty of people still out but nothing close to normal.  People walking dogs, people kicking balls on the grass, and yes, some tourists. I stayed away from most of them as I passed the Vietnam, Korean, Lincoln, Jefferson, and MLK memorials, and the Washington monument. There were people about, but not that many.

I needed that walk for my soul.  Taking the metro in each day with people who all seem a little dejected.  Sitting at the office where most people work with headphones on. Coming home where now the loudest things outside are the helicopters flying by and the sirens, and the loudest thing inside is the cat.  Watching TV (please, someone give me a recommendation).  Just being alone a lot.  I needed something warm and pretty and not so lonesome, and walking around this city while talking with Ian did me some good.

Take care of yourselves.

Remember that feeling on 9/11 when all the planes were being told to land and we held our breathes as a nation for hours as we watched the blips disappear from the radar screens? And then the silence.  And then the days and days of "what the hell." We all knew we'd had a major hit to our sense of security and felt the sudden loss of life. For myself, this has had a similar feeling but I didn't really recognize it until today because it's been so sloooooooow, so protracted. Yes, while it feels like things are changing hour to hour, the changes have been smaller pieces of a much bigger picture.  Life came to a screeching halt in 2001, this has been more subtle. It's a like an interminably slow squeeze, and it's no wonder that people feel like the world is closing in on them, even if they didn't realize at first that it was.

The last major flu in 1918 didn't have a lot what we have today to the extent that we have it today.  Clean water in our homes, indoor plumbing, stockpiles of tissues and wipes, a doctor on every corner, lots of hospitals, gloves and masks, stocked grocery stores, trash pick-up, mail delivery, home entertainment, and more that all of that, science, risk awareness, and global communication. We have the ability to social distance and self-quarantine that folks in the last flu didn't, and the means to do it safely and dare I say, happily, so it's on us to take those steps. We have 100-years-of progress-advantages, use them.

So yeah, take care of yourselves. Breathe. Eat well. Go outside! If the weather cooperates, open the doors and windows and let the outside in. Talk to people, a lot, over some digital form of communication. Read that book.  If you have a book inside you, write it. Sing on your balcony. Walk the dog. Play with your family and enjoy this time. All that good stuff.  Seems like every museum has free virtual tours and every restaurant delivers. So watch some Kennedy Center or Met Opera streams while you learn how to bake bread or make ice cream. Support the arts, today and always, and recognize how important all genres of the arts world affect our lives and feed our minds, bodies, and souls.

2020 has been anything but predictable. People, there are still 8 1/2 more months to go in this year.... which according to my internal calendar means we'll be in 2020 for roughly 12.48 more years. Just please, don't let my hope that all this will ease soon be met with a stab in the back, or a punch in the gut, or a blindside, OK 2020? We'd all just like to make it through in one piece. I want my kids safe and healthy. And I want my husband home and healthy.  Is that too much to ask?

Just please, no blindsides.

Oh, and if everyone who wants to get tested could get tested, that would be great too.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

R&R#2 in the books.

Ian is back in Baghdad and I've started my job.  It's been a busy 8 weeks. January and half of February was dedicated to ConGen, the generic term for the consular training course at FSI, and Ian arrived stateside on Feb 7 with out HHE delivery on 10 January, so you know... busy. I'm still working on boxes. There is no way that the stuff for a family of 6 that filled a 3-story/5-bedroom house in Jordan can easily fit into 1185sqft of apartment. I feel like the paring down I did in Frankfurt was a good start, but that's all it was, a start.  I didn't really think how "paring down" to 12 pots and pans still wouldn't fit in a single kitchen cabinet. So. Much. Stuff.

So Ian arrived on 7 Feb, and so did Nicholas.  We had Nicholas with us for 10 days, a wonderful time as he'll be heading out on some cold-weather training for 6 months and won't be available again until the fall sometime.

But I have to admit, this R&R was just so different from #1.  For one thing, dishes. And laundry. Taking a bus to class.  Let's just boil it down to, I had to set an alarm.  An alarm!  I couldn't just BE with my spouse and my kid, there were other things pulling me around, and I didn't really like that. We were out every night the first week, which was great but tiring. Dinners with friends. Celebrating Katherine's 24th birthday. "The King's Speech" at The National Theater.  A Caps game. Valentine's Day. Dinner with my parents. The following Monday was a holiday, Katherine and Erich came down for an escape room which we blew through.

So. Many. Boxes.

Something we've noticed with Escape Rooms - as we get better at good rooms we spend less time in them. It's a catch-22, but still a fun one.

The next week, Nicholas returned to Camp Lejeune, we had another sad Caps game, and then Friday Ian and I flew to the UK to visit with our youngest at university.  We strongly recommend the four-poster room at the Rose and Crown Best Western in Colchester. There's a delight in staying in a converted 15th century pub house. The other Best Western I recommend is in Istanbul, it's just gorgeous.  Let's lay it out there - the international branch of Best Western is nothing like the US branch.

Oops, fuzzy, but yes, we had to duck.

Between the raindrops, we checked out the school (we did a college tour in June 2018, very different from gloomy Feburary), saw the boy's dorm room, ate on campus, saw his classrooms and some of his projects, and most importantly, took him off campus for a bit. The weather really didn't cooperate, so the blustery, cloudy, and periodically heavy downpours kept us from really wandering - the required rain boots or hiking boots didn't fit in my carry-on - but we did amble through Colchester High Street by the castle in the oldest settlement in England, and visited the tiny village of Dedham. Dedham has a nice restaurant we tried to go, The Boathouse, but as it was all reserved we had delightful light fare at the Tiptree Tea Room. Tiptree tea rooms are all over Essex and super cute, with cakes and sandwiches, and of course afternoon tea.  That's something I haven't had an opportunity for yet.  We just figured out that upstairs dining rooms in pubs are the place to eat, not the communal tables by the bar - tea rooms are a step beyond that we haven't reached yet. We did an Escape Room with Jonathon too, another successful outing.

The boy.

The last night we had him we had dinner at the hotel restaurant, which shockingly was out of fish and chips (we remedied that the next day in London). I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner with these 2, chatting, having dessert, and some awesome Strongbow cider. Though we'd planned to see him for breakfast the next day before our departure, school got in the way so we said our goodbyes.

As happens every time we leave one of the kids or the kids leave us, I get weepy. Ian hadn't seen J since June, and he won't see him again until July when he comes home.

Colchester is just under 2 hours from Heathrow, but still too far IMO to do the drive the same morning as our flights.  So we returned to the airport, turned in the car, then took the train into town where Ian gave a talk to the Consular ELOs about his time in Baghdad, before we had our fish and chips and caught a showing of "Magic Goes Wrong." I hadn't ever heard of it, but Ian had and we're fans of Penn&Teller. The crazy thing with the show is that they do some actual magic, but there's so much silliness going on you don't really pay attention to the slight of hand. The Mischief Theater Company has 2 other shows currently running in the West End too, so be impressed they've secured so much stage space.

Wednesday morning came too soon.  Ian went to his gate and I went to mine, and 12 hours later we'd arrived at our respective "homes." Opposite directions.

One more R&R to go.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

I keep forgetting to breathe

The U.S. and Iraq and Iran.

I have no words.

That's a lie. I have a lot of words. SO many words. So very many words.

And I can't say them.

So they roll around and around and around in my head, various versions of the same thoughts all oozing with frustration, fear, and a pool of blind rage.

My head is pounding. I need to remember to breathe.

The words will come later.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Clearly I haven't done my Word for the Year in a while...

But as a refresher:
2012: GO
2014: CHANGE

I used to choose a word that I'd try to hold on to for the year, to inspire, to guide, and push me into doing things I wouldn't normally do. I intentionally picked words that had multiple interpretations and could be molded to whatever might come along. I guess I forgot to keep it going in Frankfurt, but here I am, ringing in the new year tonight with a whole year coming up and so much change, again.

I'll create it somehow to put on a wall or door or mirror so it's always annoyingly there reminding me that I have goals. Or at least a goal. Just one goal I can focus on for the year that's for me. I sometimes explain it, and sometimes I don't.

It's time to choose.

For 2020: PACE

A breakdown of R&R #1, Week 3

A month ago we went our separate ways, but the week before that sad day we finished our time in Fayetteville with a quick weekend trip to Atlanta to see Becca.

There wasn't much left to see or do in Fayetteville, NC by the third week. We did walk down to the Airborne and Special Ops Museum which was pretty well designed if a little heavy on the military stuff.  I know how that sounds, but it really was extremely dry text and map heavy, which is fine, but after the 20th battle explained in numbers and routes, they all start blending and it's hard to keep reading.  The museum was light on first person narratives, which tend to hold my interest - maneuvers, wins, losses, from the creation of plane jumping are all good but I prefer them to fill out a story and not be the full story. Of course, I'm just one person and I still found it interesting, so if you're in the area it's definitely worth a couple hours.

We took a day to drive to Greensboro and have lunch with some very old friends, folks we hadn't seen since Ian's Daily Press days way back when the girls were infants. Yeah, it's been a while.  We met up with them for a long leisurely lunch and are looking forward to when they make it up to DC for a visit. We drove from Greensboro to Raleigh in time for a Carolina Hurricanes game, which the Canes won and we could cheer OK because they weren't playing the Caps. The next time we're in the area we'd like to see a little more of the city, the arena is on the outskirts and when the game ended at 10pm, we drove the hour back to our airbnb.

For our weekend in Atlanta we stayed right downtown next to the the Olympic park, which was absolutely fantastic. Not only did we walk to CNN Center so Ian could see his old haunt (he worked there over Y2K), and the Civil Rights Museum (absolutely worth a visit), but the park was host to a fantastic replica of a German kriskindlmarkt. From the kartoffelpuffer to the currywurst, the chocolate tools and the quark doughnuts, and of course the trdlnks. Some of the huts were run by Germans. They even had a bona fide Kathe Wohlfahrt, which just made me smile like a fool. We were giddy, truly, to see mulled wine (though the delivery of the special mugs was delayed until after we left, bummer) and hot chocolate.  It may have been 60 degrees outside but that really brought the holiday spirit home.

Along with our evening entertainment, of course - Rebecca had purchased tickets to the lights show at the botanical gardens. I never know what to expect from things like that.  I see ads every year for "greatest light show" for walking through, driving through, etc but this show was really great, with an entire series of lights set to music. The rain stopped as we arrived and held off the entire visit. 

Our time in Atlanta was done. Our time in Fayetteville was done. We'd visited with Rebecca, Nicholas, and Katherine and we were ready to head back north for Thanksgiving with my parents and to see Katherine again.  But before Thanksgiving we had one more thing to do - finish signing the lease for our apartment. When we made the decision to pull out of my position in Baghdad, things moved quickly.  We found a place for me to move into and set up, I applied for and got a job, and Ian started the wheels on getting our shipments. We received our U.S. storage as soon as we returned from North Carolina - 3000lbs we hadn't seen in 7 years and let me be honest, about half of it got thrown out already or is heading to a donation center soon. When you store items from a 4 bedroom, 3-floor house and move into something much (much) smaller, there is a definite sense of panic, amiright?

The panic isn't going away either.  There are 5000lbs coming from Frankfurt.  And 900lbs coming from Baghdad.



Friday, December 13, 2019

After the letters, begin the photos

After reading through so many letter and postcards, and deciding most of them were ready to be let go, it was time to start on the photos. Before the advent of digital photographs, well before the birth of smart phones and Instagram, every roll of negatives was printed, and for a period of time often printed in duplicate. That's a lot of paper and ink. That's even more fuzzy images without a delete button. And when you decide that your kids should snap photos of the world from their vantage point, it's a lot of sidewalks and shoes. Fuzzy sidewalks and shoes.

And for some inexplicable reason, I kept them. In boxes, in envelopes, in albums, among letters and cards and mementos. Sometimes I was good, and a trip's worth of photos were culled to a reasonable number and housed -in order- -with notes- in a small 4x6" album. Go me. But let's be real, that was not the norm.

So along with the old boyfriend letters, out went the old boyfriend photos. Along with the kids' toddler doodles went the half-face-grimacing-in-a-swim-diaper photos. I have plenty still in my little box, only now the little box is 1/2 full with only photos that bring a smile and are reasonably discernible.

I'm not done yet. Of course I'm not done yet. There are more boxes of photos to go through. So many more. But it's a good task, and an easier one with Becca asking the ever lingering question "Really?" Because the most, the answer is (after a big sigh) "No, I guess not" and off it goes into the land of memory, ready to fade into merely a hint, a shimmer, of my history.