Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A 40th to Remember

So the day started off normal.  Yeah, my birthday, big 4-oh, OK, let's move along.  Thought about going to Starbucks but didn't, arrived at work with the whole family in tow... Ian and K off to their jobs, R and J off to camp, N hanging around, heard lots of Happy Birthday!s, one of our awesome summer hires made brownies, my coCLO took over the tedious briefing we do on Tuesdays, checked email, etc. etc.

Took Rebecca to the dentist for some xrays as she's been having headaches related to jaw pain and it looks like the wisdom teeth might be a problem. Back to the Embassy.  Lunch.  CoCLO went off to the housing tour, another regular Tuesday tedium, again taking it off my plate while I agreed to head to the housing meeting that follows after.

And then about 1:30 p.m. this happened:

No, this was not a drill.  Annie in our office is a First Responder and suited up due to a questionable powder in the Consular Section.  Yeah.  The Consular Section.  Over the next hour I heard many times "Ian isn't in there, he's outside."  People watch out for each other here.  I was stuck in the North Chancery and told not to move, until the DCM came through and asked me to walk with her.  For the remainder of the day I was in the AECSA building worrying about the summer camp kids who'd been pulled from the pool and congregated in the Oasis, and then the folks who were heading to decontamination.

Hours upon hours later, after summer camp kids were corralled and managed and finally sent off home with parents, after more than half of the Consular section was scrubbed down, after Jordanian Civil Defense came in and samples were taken and extra clothes were scrounged and med visits were completed, the All Clear came through. Thank goodness, because anything else would have resulted in practically the entire Embassy getting scrubbed. Annie was exhausted, Beth and I were wiped.  I apologized to Annie for the one time I answered her cell phone and heard the cake shop saying that the ice cream cake was ready.  Oops.  Surprise busted.  It'll have to happen tomorrow. I still need to get a photo of the awesome sign over our door. I have The Best Office.

Honestly, I felt useful this birthday. I was glad to be part of something that mattered. And these two women are pretty cool.  I treated them to Krieks, straight from the co-op fridge.  Yes, I even drank most of mine, even though I "never" drink.   Because it was quite a day. I guess it's time to change that to "hardly ever."

They even got me a gift.  Which I ADORE.  It seems that the people around me almost know me better than I know me.  Which is pretty amazing since I don't share much.  I guess they're more perceptive than I am.  Or maybe I share more than I think.

Heading home, discussion went around - where to go for dinner?  Seriously, it's Ramadan and Ian was worn out and I just wanted a shower and comfy PJs.  Ian ordered in Chinese for the kids and sushi for us which was truly perfect.  Just me and my family, who totally rocked today. I answered questions, sent email and FB updates, gave guidance, got supplies, and offered assistance. Katherine kept her cool and helped the Marines find the stash of SCAPE hoods near my office when she couldn't get to her office or get off compound, and promptly got off compound when she could leave.  Rebecca was up with the summer camp kids and helped keep them in order well past their pick up time. Jonathon and Nicholas stayed out of the way and followed directions.  Ian did what he did best - assess, give guidance, and keep calm. No panicking by anyone.

After sushi I got even more gifts.  How to Train Your Dragon dragons (from the middle kids, these will grace my desk)! A "Hodor" sweatshirt (from Katherine... Hodor Hodor Hodor!) And a new iPhone (since mine doesn't hold a charge for more than a few hours anymore).

It's funny, not in a Ha-Ha funny but in a How About That funny, that just this morning I was continuing my EAC (emergency action committee) FSI training and updating our office phone tree.  I'd been thinking we hadn't had an incident in a couple months, and much like earthquakes around the world, it felt like one was overdue. I'm truly glad the end result was "All Clear."

And I'll never forget when I turned 40.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Happy 41!!

To celebrate with his Consular section... all his minions.

And some sushi for his day.  We went to Oobe', a place highly recommended by many (but honestly?  Not by us, we won't go back.)

Another cake at home, with some relighting candles courtesy of Jonathon.  They not only relight, they spark and smoke something fierce.

Wadi Rum and Coke from Becca!

And Game of Thrones coasters from Katherine!  I claim Stark.

Jonathon got him new earbuds, Nicholas - a box of dark-chocolate-covered-espresso-bean-stuffed dates.  If you have to do Ramadan dates, these are the way to go.

Happy birthday, sweet heart.  I love you.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A timely reminder that we will see all our friends again....

We last saw these lovely folks when Rebecca was with the twins in Kindergarten in Manila and then again in 1st grade in VA.  My how they've grown!

Thanks for making time for us in your busy schedule.  It's not easy squeezing in a late dinner between Jerusalem and Istanbul but we appreciate that you did!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I will not say "Goodbye" but rather "Until We Meet Again"

And they're off.  All of them.  Tomorrow morning, bright and early, the last of the departees from our village will be gone, and so far I'm doing all right.  I'm doing all right because right now it's Thursday night at 9:30 p.m. and I'm normally in my PJs at this time, considering sleep.  I'm doing all right because I haven't hit the points in a week where I'd expect to see them and felt them missing. 
Jenna left first last Friday, and I ran out so fast I didn't get a photo with her when I said farewell.  It took me getting a job and working to figure out that Jenna was pretty awesome.  She is generous and giving in everything that she does, and she taught me that it's OK to just be me. 

Katie was the next to depart on Tuesday.  We didn't really become friends until about 8 months ago.  For some reason she felt hard to get to know, but one day, it just clicked.  She and Donna taught me that doing something hard can also be done gracefully.  Both of them completed a year, unaccompanied, living in a foreign land with their FS family for support.  Katie is strong and compassionate, and I'm so happy to know her.  
Maddy left on Wednesday and it wasn't until I started working that we got to know each other.  She plays a mean game of Cards Against Humanity and she taught me that finding joy in the small things and letting out laughter that spreads joy to those around is truly a gift. 
Donna left Thursday morning. She and Jenna have been friends in Amman forever, so I invaded an established relationship, but for some reason they still welcomed me. Donna has a deadpan wit that catches me off-guard every time, and I'm not kidding that she is someone to watch and to emulate: she does everything and sometimes even makes it look easy.  At the same time, Donna taught me that it's OK to not always have it together, and it's OK to ask for help.  

Tomorrow morning, the last departs.  Justina and Jenna worked together, and thereby worked with me, and I won't forget how kind and helpful and open she has always been. She wore her emotions on her sleeve, but didn't sink under them.  I'm grateful she reinforced that making the right choice is always worth it, even when that decision isn't always the popular one.
It's hard to sink down to encapsulating these amazing women in a few trite words, but it's what I've done.  It's better than having these friendships reduced to something like this:

For the past week we've become the home for all matter of left-behind items.  I'm grateful for more than just "Hey!  We've now got gluten-free X for a year!" because I kind of feel like I've struck the jackpot.  Now, every time I open my cupboards, I see something from a friend and it doesn't make me sad at all but brings a smile to my face. I'm not sure if I'll ever use a Make-At-Home Goat Cheese Kit, but you can bet it'll stay on my shelf a long long while.

In the meantime, I'll raise a cup of Island Coconut on Sunday morning.  To all the friends who have gone on to new adventures, I salute you.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

June in the Foreign Service

Read this: "June Goodbyes" by Donna Gorman

I wasn't there.  I left at about 8 p.m. knowing full well that some of the closest friends I've had here were leaving in the morning.  Mature person that I am, I left in a huff, annoyed at some small thing that Ian did, a cover for feeling anxious about the other emotions about to spill out and wanting to get away from them as quickly as possible. Ian got home late, being the awesome dad he is, allowing Nicholas to get to the very last available minute with one of his closest friends.  The report back says there were many many.. many tears.  I'm positive I wouldn't have handled my own sadness gracefully, much less my son's.

Theirs was the first departure of the "village," the group, the ones I hung out with.  We came late to the game, having only worked our way in a year ago with these folks, and now they're gone.

Most of the rest are very soon to follow... one on Monday, another on Tuesday, another on Thursday...

Another friend said it so aptly - this is the first post we've had that's been about us.  Not purely about our kids as it's been up until now, but us and our friendships, our fun, our opportunity to spend time with people we really like.

For me, that's what makes this June so much harder than the rest.  Come July I'll look about me and feel lost in this desert.  There are some others out there, don't get me wrong, but I wonder if it'll take another year to find my village again.

Farewell Mom. See you soon.

Thanks for coming for a wonderful visit, with the one major thing to come from it: we're safe (generally) and happy (generally).

It's a very late night here in Amman.  At midnight the kids were asleep in the car already.

With the favorite son-in-law.

And me.  Promise I didn't cry.

The coolest people do the dunk tank

Yesterday we had our Community Independence Day event.  Once again we had Ian in the tank, and Katie went in as well - our only woman this year!