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.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Wading through the past

I really enjoy writing paper, envelope, stamp letters.  I like sending mail, I like receiving mail. Before email and Messenger and Skype and Facebook, letters were where it was at for catching up on everything after "I'm so sorry I haven't written in sooooooo long!"  For 20¢ (a little more for international), I could send pages and pages or a single card to a friend somewhere else in the world.  Getting a letter or card filled with words of encouragement, love, or "this is what I did today, how about you?" was simply connectivity at its finest.

But man, after Ian and I built a family together and email came about, fewer paper letters overall and I quit writing in general, and so did all my friends. I have sifted through stacks of Christmas cards, Valentine's Day cards, Easter cards,  starting in the late 70s. When was the last time you received a Halloween card in the mail from a friend? Granted, I'd much rather receive a letter than a card any day, but the sheer number of cards I've read through in the past couple days...

Because I am reading them. Each one. Each card, letter, note, newspaper clipping, postcard and I have some thoughts so bear with me, or just skip the rest.

* My best friend from Algiers, my longest friend starting in 3rd grade, I didn't realize that I'd kept in touch with her through almost the entirety of high school. And then poof, nothing. I have no idea where she is, so if you know a Nadia Othman who was in Algiers and the child of Iranian and Polish parents, can you hook me up?

* Middle school was one of the highlights of my life. Friends from Niger came to my wedding. I still know where a bunch of them are and follow them on FB. These were such special people and I miss them. When I left Niamey, the letter-writing began in earnest.

* My two closest friends from high school, Meredith and Kristin, are FB friends and we wrote back and forth all through college. Long letters about college life, semesters abroad, summer jobs.

* College. For as poor as we all were we wrote a lot of letters, especially the summer of 1992. I'm FB friends with a number of college buddies and I recall how funny and clever and sweet they were.

* Starting in 1994, the majority of letters I still own are between Ian and I. They are delightful and bring me such joy and contentment. I may not have known at the beginning that he was absolutely the right person for me, but reading through, I should have known. I should have seen it - these letters outlined the building blocks as we head towards our 24th wedding anniversary.

As expected, the full range of emotions are found in all these mementos.

Boredom was pretty prevalent in the summer letters, unfulfilling part-time jobs will do that.  But the flip side was a lot of excitement for school to start up again so our gang could reform.

Joy was a big one too. We shared a lot about our plans and were encouraging and hopeful. There was a block of letters where I told my friends about my engagement and my 1st pregnancy all at once.  I'm sure in the background there's a lot of "better her than me," but in the words there was nothing but well wishes and support.

There are letters from ex-boyfriends and those elicit a word of gratitude for being stepping stones to where I am now - which I hope they see the same way.

There was some angst. Friends falling out with each other, me falling out with them. How I wish I could go back and fix some of the stupid I did. Some stories are pieced together from a note here and a line there. One of my closest friends in college was my roommate of 3 years, but I did what a lot of people do when they find a new love and my roommate suffered for it, and as a result so did I because she's not in my life anymore. Like I said, stupid.

And sadness, there's some sadness in these letters as well. Letters from my parents, cards from friends who tried so hard to be good and kind to me as I shrugged them away, long passages explaining a mistake or a hurt or a desire for something to change.

But most of all there is love, love in all its forms.  Love in concern, love in excitement, love in the pure love of friends sharing themselves with each other. I had so many friends, the letters prove it. People who took out time to write. Clearly, one of my love languages is the written word, because a pad of nice paper, a good pen, and an afternoon to write to someone I care about is a package of happiness, and receiving a letter tells me that person thought of me with the same love (even if they didn't know it :) )

Most of the letters are no longer with me now. It's time to say goodbye. They'll live fresh in my memory for now, and fade once again over time but they won't be renewed. Oh, I've kept a number of them. Ones that chatted about shared adventures or momentous occasions, most of the letters from Ian and my relationship, notes from my kids, my parents, and my grandparents.

In another 20 years I may reread them to touch on again how lucky I am to have been so loved my entire life. Even as I know how lucky I am right now.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A breakdown of R&R #1, Week 2

So we picked up our rental car, a Toyota RAV4 that we really enjoyed driving, stopped by my parents' home for lunch and to pick up some items, then made our way to Fayetteville, NC where I'd booked a loft apartment for the next 2 weeks.  What's in Fayetteville? Besides Fort Bragg, not much.  But it was 5 hours from NoVA so an easy drive, an hour from Raleigh where we knew we were going to a Hurricanes game, 2 hours from Jacksonville and we knew we'd be picking up Nicholas for a weekend, and 5 hours from Atlanta where we knew we'd be visiting Becca for a weekend. Not quite middlin, but middlin enough for our purposes.

We tried to do everything there was to do in Fayetteville.  There for 2 weeks, we had the time.  We ate at Biscuitville. Not really worth it. Since our place was right at old town (old 2 blocks?) we ate at Antonella's and Pierros and Blue Moon Cafe and Circa 1800 and Huske Hardware House, and picked up coffee from Rude Awakenings. They were all really good, so as depressed the area is and how many storefronts were vacant, the eating establishments were great.

They also have a sweet little Cameo Art House Theater.  With 2 screens they have their movies and showtimes posted on the door and open up 30 minutes before whatever show starts them rolling. We saw "JoJo Rabbit" and "Parasite."  "JoJo Rabbit" is wonderful.  You might not think so when the basic storyline is a 10 year old Nazi-in-training and his imaginary friend, Hitler.  But truly, a delightful film you should see.  We read reviews of "Parasite" but left not really sure how to feel about it. Maybe that was the point though.

One day the first week it rained hard all day and the following day it was downright cold and blustery. So we stayed in and watched what some might call "too much TV." We enjoy watching together and haven't been able to, so this was bonding time. The Boys: someone told us it turned dark, and it did, but a good season 1 all around. Killing Eve: clever and enjoyable, an enjoyable first season. Derry Girls: everyone should watch this one, it's so much fun, and if you were raised Catholic all the better. Fleabag: I'd watched the first episode and deemed it overly sad, so we watched the first episode together and Ian thought the same, so enough of that. The Mandalorian: we saw what was out (and we'll catch up later) and if you look at each episode as a short graphic novel mini-adventure, then all is good. We watched several televised Capitals games.

We didn't catch up on The Good Place, The Crown, and several other shows, but that's OK.

On Thursday, we drove to Jacksonville to pick up Nicholas who had just returned from training in California. He went for a massage and medi (isn't that what you call a mani/pedi??), attended a Fayetteville Marksmen game (tip, don't follow GPS to the Crown Center... the entrance is in the back), did the MayDay Escapology room, shopped at Dick's sporting goods to knock some items off his Christmas list, put some good food into him, and just enjoyed hanging out.

On Sunday we returned him to Camp LeJeune.  Until February.