Thursday, January 30, 2014

Interesting Article: Two Mindsets

Fixed Mindset Vs Growth Mindset

"What it all comes down to is that a mindset is an interpretative process that tells us what is going on around us. In the fixed mindset, that process is scored by an internal monologue of constant judging and evaluation, using every piece of information as evidence either for or against such assessments as whether you’re a good person, whether your partner is selfish, or whether you are better than the person next to you. In a growth mindset, on the other hand, the internal monologue is not one of judgment but one of voracious appetite for learning, constantly seeking out the kind of input that you can metabolize into learning and constructive action."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Turn to Page 30-31

I don't know what I did to belong on this page with world-known bloggers, especially as I personally know several bloggers right here at Post who are far better writers and far wider read than I am.  But I'm thankful for the shout-out anyway.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Radio Silence

The news from Ethiopia: The sound of crickets.  Aside from a brief text relayed through one of the team leader's spouse that they arrived at the village outside of Addis, we have heard nothing.  Perhaps the sounds of crickets is what's for dinner.

The news from Paris:  Not as quiet.  We've also received a couple photos from Katherine and a couple messages via Facebook.  She's seeing a lot, eating a lot, and being cold a lot.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Bon Voyage, chere Katherine

Three a.m. doesn't make anyone look good.

Katherine was a little anxious on departure but we didn't get a phone call from the airport so we assume she made it to Paris.  Eats lots of baguettes and cheese, kiddo!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

"12 Years a Slave"

On Sunday we had a holiday to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and his role in Civil Rights progress in the U.S. The the kids were in school, so for those interested adults we had a private viewing of "12 Years a Slave" to kick off Black History Month in February.

I wish it had been more popular, but not everything is "The Hunger Games" and draws 60+ people.  "12 Years" drew 22, and it's a film that raised many more questions.  Now I feel the need to read Solomon Northup's book to figure out everything I missed... what was his profession?  How did he set up his life in Saratoga?  What was the purpose of his (and others') kidnapping?  How did his family support themselves during his absence?  Why is his place of burial unknown?

It's on my Kindle, with extra background by Sue Eakin, ready to go.  After _Unbroken_ and _The Night Circus_.

Middle School Dance, second try

Six weeks or so ago the first dance was snowed/blizzarded/iced/snowmageddoned out.  This time, no jacket required.  I think it's something like 55F outside.

 They clean up nice.  Even that one on the end that appears to have eaten a bug.

Ethiopia Bound

Packed up and ready to be awesome.

No Nicholas because he got on the bus and left school.  Oops.

It's not really a selfie when it's filled with other people.


Little brother hugs are never... quite... right....

Big sister hugs are even odder.
Have a great time in Ethiopia, Becca!!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Media Entertainment

In the past few weeks I've seen a couple movies and read a couple books, and watched a lot of serials.  Twice, the books and movies had the same name.  I won't say they're the same stories though.

I heard so many wonderful things about "Silver Linings Playbook," at least the film version.  The book appeared in our CLO library so I read it.  Thankfully it's short as it's also tedious.  Football, yes, ok, lots of football.  Mentally cracked leads, yup, got it.  Lots of exercising.  The story was boring.

The movie was on TV so with its great reviews so we gave it a whirl.  As faulty as the book was, it was pretty straight-forward.  What is with screenplays that they change the characters in a book that doesn't call for changing?  For as pointless as the book was, the changes in the movie didn't make it any less pointless, it just stole all the minimal surprises saved in the book.  Bleh, is what I say.  Bleh.  What's with Danny showing up at all points?  What's with his dad's openness?  Huh?

Happily, we also caught "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," and it turned out to be a delightful movie, a sweet surprise.  So, I picked up the book (These Foolish Things), and if I have to read another page about "Norman" and his search for sex in India, I may just return it to the library unfinished.  His story is minor in the movie, thankfully so.  It's a time when I'm glad the screenplay writer adjusted things.  The difference between the changes made between the book and film here is that some stories are bolstered while others are more in the shadows, but the stories themselves haven't changes all that much.  Except for the Ainsleys (so far, I'm not finished yet)... what's up with them?

My next book will be Unbroken.

Let's see, what have we watched in series form in the past month?

Sherlock, of course.  Lots of murder mystery, including Sherlock's own death. Second episode was the best, third episode had pacing troubles. No spoilers here.

The Hour, season 1. The launch of a BBC news hour in the 1940s, involves a murder mystery and international politics. It felt like a story that should have been told in fewer episodes, the acting is good though.  We've started season 2.

Orphan Black.  We watched the first episode months ago and put it aside.  After a strong recommendation from a friend, we tried it again and are half way through the season.  It's good, and seems to be getting better.

State of Play.  BBC murder mystery.  Do you like the governor on Walking Dead and Harold Saxon from Dr. Who?

Broadchurch.  Great series, great acting, murder mystery.  Not sure how they're going to do a second season though.  And honestly, I'm not thrilled with David Tennant doing the same series as the same character for a U.S. version.  Just watch the BBC one, OK?

Shows coming up:

Downton Abbey, season 4

The Village - BBC show a la Downton Abbey, without the rich people.

Whitehall - BBC murder mystery.  Again.

What are you watching?  What are you reading?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Riding the River Nile

There's always something quirky to do, so we did it.  A dinner cruise on the River Nile.

Are you plugged in?  Yeah, you?  Yeah, how about you?

With entertainment even.

When it's chilly out.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Art in the house

Anyone will say that art comes in many forms and in many different degrees of expertise.  From a finger-painting on a fridge to an orchestral symphony, it's all art.

Remember how I said my kids had artistic bones, but they don't show them when it comes to gingerbread houses?  Yeah, that. This week showed a different side.  Jonathon finally dug into his project box and put together the bat house that's been waiting for years.  I'm not even sure Amman has bats.  I know there are bats in Ajloun as we saw them the marshmallow-roasting night, zipping about just on the edge of the light auras, doing their best munching of mosquitoes and other insects.  I enjoy watching bats.  I think they're cool.  I didn't care too much for the red-eyed insane looking bats that would crash in our yard in Togo or dive into the guard shack and try to eat the guard, and then screamed for hours after the guard beat them to the ground with a baton.  Those bats were scary.  The fruit bats, on the other hand, with their massive wings spans and sunset flights of millions against the sky, that was gorgeous.  Every night they would blanket the sky on their way to the mango groves.  I guess the mango farmers weren't too thrilled with that. But even so, I do like bats.  I especially like that the little insectivores eat mosquitoes.  Some of them are kind of cute too.  Like little flying mice.

Where was I?  Oh right, bat house.  Jonathon put one together.  Now to find a place outdoors.  Usually they are placed high in a tree or on the outside of a house or barn.  Maybe we'll just hang on to it until our next post (where ever that may be)?  At least we should wait until summer.  I'm sure whatever bats there may be have high-tailed it out of Amman until after the winter.

Now if I can get him back to finish his latch hook and Warhammer characters.  Anyone remember latch hook?  It's a quiet, fine motor project, which is probably why he doesn't touch it for weeks on end.  Jonathon is more a full-body kid when it comes to choosing an activity. Sitting quietly is not his forte and projects that take careful attention and a lot of care take him quite a while to complete. through fits and starts.

Anyway, the bat house is put aside for now and hopefully the latch hook will come out and get done along with the Warhammer characters.  I'm still working on my first knitting project, the blanket that will never ever ever be finished.  Ever.  I remember posting the photo of me working on it at a concert.  At Saunders Middle School.  In Virginia.  Two years ago.  I have an excuse and it's a good one... I only work on knitting during the winter.  So you see, I really only have about 3 months a year I can plug along on it.  It's not my fault, blame the nice Amman weather.

You've already seen the wall art Katherine is slowly working on.  Another piece we have on our wall now is a way nifty wooden plaque that looks a little like this.  Actually it looks a lot like this.  Yeah, it looks exactly like this.  It's, um, ours.  I think it's fabulous.  I didn't make it, but another Foreign Service family does so I ordered it from them.  Nifty thing is it comes with extra boards, pre-painted, with markers to write in out next tours.  It's very very cool and makes me smile every time I see it.  Manila seems so long ago.

What I really wanted to show off today though was this lovely piece.  Rebecca worked on it for weeks, including over the holiday, and it's now ready to go back to school for her art teacher to see.  This is why I like when my kids to take art classes at school:  I get way cool pieces to put up on the walls.  They mark the kids' progress in a very different way than a simple photograph ever could.  You can see a little of their heart, a peek into how they see the world, a glimpse into a small part of their soul.

These pieces make me smile more than anything else.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The news gives regular updates on the instability in Cairo

The hotel was lovely, and vacant.  It comes as a result of the turmoil in Cairo and in the surrounding areas.  Due to the instability we made alternate arrangements for part of our itinerary, skipping the rocks and tear gas near the Khan el-Khalili souk and instead opting to spend a little more time at the hotel.

Note to self: No matter where or when you travel, make sure the kids pack swimsuits.  Forgot this time.  Oops.

The Mena House Hotel is quite a compound.  Unfortunately tourism isn't what it once was and entire wings are dark.  The girls and I went exploring one evening and had the distinct feeling the place was haunted.  I'm sure we were imagining things.
Imagine this hallway... but with no lights.

We think the housekeeping staff was bored.

The spa too was deserted.  We had the steam room all to ourselves.  I know there's a 10-minute limit on it but each of the girls had a 30-minute appointment and neither wanted to sit in the steam room alone, so I got roughly 45-minutes of steaming.  I was a little thirsty after.

What's a menu without a little camel milk?

Ian's orange.

Or was it??

We traversed empty halls, ate in the mostly deserted breakfast room, hung out in our three lovely suites decorated far beyond our prior minimalist surrounds in Jerusalem.  At the end of our visit we collected all the little freebies and Rebecca got a little over-zealous.  We asked her to put it back.

I really can't get over this place.  A lovely oasis in a bustling city of 22 million people.  If Cairo is on your list of things To Do before you die, I recommend the Mena House.

Friday, January 3, 2014

OK, the pyramids aren't actually in Cairo (they're in Giza), and neither is this stuff

South of Cairo and Giza is the original official capital of Egypt, Memphis.

I'm sensing a trend here.  Amman used to be Philadelphia, Memphis is in Egypt.  We like to think that U.S. town names are so original but really they all come from somewhere.  True, most are from a small village here or there in England, but just as our people are a melting pot of backgrounds it naturally fell that the city names would follow suit.  It takes people to name cities after all.

So, there's Ramses II lying on the ground.   He's way popular partially because he had so many statues of himself around and so many of them survived the past thousands of years.  This one laying down was big and finely detailed from the dagger in his belt to the cobra on this crown.  Quite impressive actually.

The museum in Memphis is quite outdoorsy.  Which makes the great state of these statues even more impressive.

Impressive, yes.  That doesn't mean we don't have a bit of irreverency in all of us.

Another statue of Ramses II.  Quite a bit smaller than the crashed one.

After Memphis we traveled a little further to Saqqara and the oldest dated pyramid still standing.  Off in the distance you can see some other random pyramids (because I don't know anything about them) that dot the Egyptian Sahara.  How crazy is that?  Imagine trundling along on a stinky camel and then, pop, pyramid.  Crazy.

Back to Saqqara. Honestly, it wasn't all that impressive in person.  The fact is, what's believed about this pyramid is that the pharaoh that wanted it didn't know how to build one (obviously... being first and all) so he had a little one built.  Decided it wasn't big enough and had an addition put on.  Still not big enough, extended a step, added another layer.  Still not big enough, etc.  To the point that he's not even buried in his pyramid because with all the additions and not really knowing how to build a pyramid, his burial chamber collapsed and he was buried about 100 yards off to the side.  In a big pit.  No worries though, his slaves are still buried all around him.  He had his priorities straight.

There's cool stuff all over Egypt and we got a taste of some the standard visitor fare.  Well worth it, so go when you get the chance.

More tomorrow...

The rollercoaster of life has some really high points.

Case in point:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

From "Outside" to "Change"

"Outside" was the right word for 2013.  For me, it's good to have a word with multiple angles... outside in the physical sense, which I tried to do within our travel: geocaching around Ireland, hiking through Petra, riding camels through the Sahara in Giza... yet I failed miserably within day-to-day life. How hard is it to get outside and do a 10 minute walk to clear the mind and re-center?  Apparently too hard for me.  But there's also outside my comfort zone, outside my routine.  That side I did pretty well.  I was hired as CLO in April and the rest sprouted out from there.  Talking on the phone is part of my job, how much more outside my comfort zone can I get?  I'm around people All. Day. Long.  Where I used to have plenty of alone hours of comfy and quiet, I now urgently seek out a couple hours on the weekend and that's usually a retreat to my bedroom, inform everyone I'm taking a nap, and close the door.  I'm not used to being pleasant and (hopefully) helpful all day, that's for sure, and many days I can feel how drained I am by the end of it.  I do like my job though, so I'm trying to make it work for me and my family.

Now that 2013 is done I won't say farewell to "Outside," that's not how this word thing works.  Each year is an attempt at improvement or trying something new, making it a part of your life, and adding something new the following year.  I prefer to go with something concrete like Outside versus something like Patience.  Patience is a great word, but every time I screw up (and I will) I'd feel like a failure.  I don't need a year of looking ahead to failure.

For 2014, I'm going with  "Change" because like it or not this year is a huge year for change.  We're not moving.  We're not getting divorced.  Hopefully no one I love will pass on.

Katherine is turning 18 in a month.  Our first adult.  And she'll depart to college this Fall, dropping our family down to 5.  The first to leave the nest.  She's so excited about it, as are we, but I have the feeling the actual farewell will be quite a bit harder than any of us anticipate.  She'll be awesome.  We'll be fine.  But wow, what a change for the Globehoppers.

Rebecca will get her first summer hire position at the Embassy.  A real job with real hours and real pay and real experience for her resume' and college applications.  She'd like to get a position in the Consular section but unfortunately that's not to be.  She'll do some college touring this summer too.

Nicholas will become a high school kid.  He's hoping he'll grow some this year, but if he follows in his father's footsteps he has a year or two to wait.  But, um, Nicholas as a high schooler?  Can anyone imagine that?  I sure can't, not yet.  Ask me in August.

Jonathon will turn into a teenager.  This will leave our Hopper family with no more "little" kids and we'll be "That family with 4 teenagers."  Hopefully the biggest challenge with having 2 teen boys is making sure they shower on a regular schedule.  A mom can dream.

And one more big, expected, heart-wrenching, change: just about all our friends are leaving. This summer will mark our 2 year anniversary here in Amman and it's far too much to hope that the friends you make at Post will be there your entire tour. But folks, our friend pool is going to shrink considerably come June.  It's definitely not a change I'm looking forward to.  At times like this I hit that Foreign Service wall of doubt... Why fall in love in with a Post that is yours for such a short time?  Why bother making friends who will leave gaps when they move on to new adventures?  Why put your heart into things that will go away on a calendar we can see 6 months or a year out?  The answer, I know, is always Why not? If we didn't enjoy our home and connect with people then truly we would lose out on the very fabric of the Foreign Service life. It's still hard.

These are some of the things I know.  These are some of the things I can expect and plan for.  "Change" suggests much more, all those small and big things we can't see coming but are expected to manage with swift calm and diplomacy.

Change is hard, but it's what we do, what we all do in every country and town and home around the world.  Kids grow up.  Friends leave.  Tastes shift.  Needs adjust.

We grow older.

The world spins.

And life throws things at us that changes our perceptions, our plans, and our family.

Hello 2014.  Show me what you've got.

Ready or not, here I come.