Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bidding on the Brain

Nope, not bidding yet, but definitely getting into the mindset.  Four years is a long time to be at Post.  Too long for this family.  Settling in, feeling comfortable, both good things.  Getting bored (ask my husband), not a good thing.

Will we make our last 18 months count?  We're going to try.  Listen to us... "last 18 months."  For those on 2 year tours, 18 months IS the tour.  For those on 3 year tours, 18 months is only 1/2 way.  For us, we're starting the countdown.  What can we do in 18 months?  Well, lots of stuff.  There are plenty of places in Jordan we have yet to experience.  An overnight in Wadi Rum for one.  I'm trying to build a list and schedule out 12 places to go, one a ~month (skipping R&R month and a few others) and I'm open to suggestions.  It's a challenge because there are monthly trips with my job (I try to avoid some of them) and really, on the weekends usually our big goal is to do nothing but hang out at home.  Boring for the kids, awesome for the adults.

Today the boys are off to paintball with friends.  There's a newish place called Blu Tactical that is way closer than Mountain Breeze (which is having great deals right now, no doubt due to the increase in much closer and presumably better paintball places). They'll have fun.  I'd wanted to go to IKEA since it's in the general area, but apparently they're carpooling and taking my car which leaves me at home to use my new Little Green Machine on the curtains.  I lead a charmed life some days.  I may also work on crochet animal parts.

Rebecca's community service project for this year is to make animals for a local orphanage, so I'm pitching in to help figure out the directions and get a few put together as guides. I'm usually pretty quick, but it's taking me at least an hour for each part, which is crazy long.  Right now I'm making bodies and she's making legs as all the patterns have the same base parts. 

Or maybe I'll just spend the day scrapping last summer's trips.  If I can't plan for the future just yet and I decide cleaning curtains isn't really going to entertain me, I'll just live in the past for a few hours and review some of the great trips we took last year.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Quarterly Contingency Planning - Shelter-in-Place

We had our quarterly contingency planning program today.  Only about 15 people came, which is fine for January, really.  The Consular rep chatted about the services they offer from powers of attorney to passports.  The RSO rep talked about house alarms and drills and calling Post One when something looks off. MED got swamped and didn't make it, but they would have talked about medications and med files.  CLO gets to talk about Go-Bags and Shelter-in-Place bags.

Exhibit 1 - my shelter-in-place bag for my office.

Top Row: 2 packages of wet wipes, 2 boxes of high protein granola bars, liter of water, travel mug with 2 instant coffee packs inside, bag of glow sticks

Middle Row: Bag of necessities, bag of bandages/Germacin/tylenol/toilet paper, heat blanket, duct tape

Front row: External power source, 2 large permanent markers

Attached to bag: Light wrap as a blanket, small pillow

What's not shown in my bag are the clothes I keep in my "gym" bag (in quotes because I have yet to actually go to the gym this year).  A 72-hour bag doesn't need to be filled to the gills because many of the things, like the "gym" clothes, are often in the office anyway.  We have a mini fridge in the office, so we have extra water already.  I keep a drawer full of snacks so I don't need a ton in the bag.  You get the idea.

There are plenty of things you can add, of course.  Everything depends on your personal needs.  If you wear contacts, keep some contact fluids.  If you take prescription drugs, keep extras (and remember to rotate it so the stuff in the bag doesn't expire).  If it's winter, pack an extra sweater (actually, the clothes you keep should always be layered so that you don't need to adjust too much with the seasons) .  If it's monsoon season, keep a poncho and umbrella.  A towel is always a good idea.

My bag was a little different than Ian's.  He has MREs and a food supplement.  Instead of glow sticks he has a wind-up flashlight.  Instead of a cobbled first aid pack he has a purchased pre-made pack.  There's a bottle of water, as well as a pack of water purifying tablets should the water go bad.  He has a blanket and an inflatable pillow with a pillowcase (and a comfy couch in his office).

There's no perfect bag and ours is always up for improvement and new tools for preparedness.  But for now, I feel a little better if we ever got locked down at work.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hello Consular Photo Day

Love the drool.

Then he offered his hand, as though I was going to get up there.

Favorite part?  The snow in the background.

Visit to the Jordan Museum

The museum is small, essentially most of one floor (history of Jordan) and half of another floor (special Petra exhibit).  We had curators take us through in split group and saw some amazing examples of preserved stuff.  Please don't touch, very little is behind glass.

I didn't take any photos of the coolest items in the museum, scraps of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the cut open segments of the copper scrolls (promising wealth and treasure to those who follow the directions held within... many have searched, none have found it).  With a 1JD entrance fee, I'll go back and revisit.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

From GO (2012), to OUTSIDE (2013), to CHANGE (2014), to SIMPLIFY (2015)

What you'll hear around our house a lot these days is "We're bidding THIS year" or "We're moving NEXT year." After 2 1/2 years already at Post, 2015 is a big year for the Hopper house.

If you're on FB you've heard the progress on cleaning house.  We've done round one on clearing out bookshelves, round one on clothes, the linen closet, and the kitchen cabinets full of mugs.  Pounds are moving out and giving us more room to breathe.

I'm back to working on scrapbooking.  Since I cleared off the desk (again) it gives me the opportunity to scrap for an hour at night at will which is really the only way to get it done.  I used to try to pull everything out, do a bunch, put it all away, and then start over another day.  I like the set up desk much better.  And it's in the bedroom so it's not in anyone's way.  But I really like reminiscing as I work.  This week's pages involved the multifamily overnight to the Dead Sea before all our friends went the ways of the winds.  Christmas brought cards and letters from those same people.  I miss them all, and at the same time I'm getting myself geared up for our own next adventure, even if it's still 18 months ago.

Those who got a card this year might have noticed there was no Christmas letter from us.  The Fall was tough for me being sick for so long and then hitting the holidays, so while I wish I'd written one it just didn't happen.

So, let's look back at 2014:

* Where did we travel? ~ Our post Christmas trip last year was to Cairo.  I still want to do a Nile River Cruise, but we're glad we got to see some pyramids and really old Egyptian stuff.  The Egypt Museum is amazing.  Last winter Rebecca went to Ethiopia with Week Without Walls and Katherine went to Paris.  Over the summer we had home leave, so it was back to the States for a month.  We spent a week in L.A. and a week in Boston visiting colleges for Rebecca.  We had 2 weeks in Virginia to set up Katherine in college at Marymount University where she's in a Nursing program. Then just prior to this Christmas we spend a week in Prague.

* What was the best thing that happened to me last year? ~ Even though it was really recent, I have to say that the best thing from last year was the trip to Prague.  A ton of fun, something totally new, and just a calm, stress-free trip.

* What did I do last year that I'm really proud of? ~ I made it through an entire year at work.  Not a big deal for 99% of the population, but I've never held a full-time job before and for me it's a big deal.

* Who did I really help? ~ That's a tough one.  I help people superficially every day at work.

* Who do I need to thank and acknowledge for having been there for me? ~ That's a Duh answer.  Ian, of course.  The person who is by my side at all times, talks me down off the ledge, boosts me up when I'm sad, takes care of me when I'm sick

* What are the top lesson I learned? ~ Don't burn a single bridge.  No matter how much someone bothers me or works against me or makes my life harder, don't burn that bridge.  Bridges can lie dormant but you never know when that person will be the one who can help you.

* What increased my happiness and joy last year? ~ Watching my oldest start to find her footing and her wings in college.  

* What's something I got through that was really tough? ~ Skydiving.  Let's be honest here, it's not something I ever imagined doing, and I will never do it again, I screamed the whole fall then felt sick the rest of way down.  But there's a check on my bucket list.  If I had one.

* What did I avoid that I must pay more attention to in 2009? ~ Taking responsibility and making better and quicker decisions for things that are uncomfortable.

* What character trait did I develop most this year? ~ Positivity. I tried to be more positive about things in general and about my kids specifically.

* What new people did I meet that are now in my life? ~  So many.  It's no secret that Ian and I don't interact with people outside of work. We don't invite people over, viewing our home as a haven where we step in and breathe out.  But we had a lot of people we really liked leave Post last summer.  Jenna is now in Ohio.  Donna is now in Moscow.  Justina and Maddy are in Virginia.  Katie moved to Dhaka.  It took us a year and half to get to know them and hang out with them, and now there's a big fat gap as we face the next 18 months.

* How did my Word play out? ~ Last year's word was "Change."  Looking back I think that it was a bit of a cop out word.  Change is in everything we do, so it didn't force me to do anything that wasn't already happening, but it did help me focus on the inevitability of it all and perhaps, let it roll more than I would have before.

Looking ahead to 2015:

* What's my word for 2015 and why? ~ This year's word is "Simplify."  One thing I know about myself is that I over-think pretty much everything.  Then Prague happened and I barely cracked a travel book, much less planned a vacation.  It had a lot to do with meeting friends in Prague versus arranging a whirlwind trip for our family in a developing country.  Simplify is meant to apply to everything though.  Morning routine, evening activity, meals, clothes, thoughts, work, everything.  It starts with the obvious though, which is Stuff.  It's tangible and has instant gratification.  Simplifying our stuff is good for everyone in the house.  And if I simplify my expectations that makes everyone happier.

* So the big question, where are we bidding for? ~ Ah, wouldn't you like to know.  We do have our eyes on 3 Posts, but we wouldn't want to jinx it, would we?

You'll know when we know.

2015 Storm Huda

The hail begins to fall.

It looks like the "ice cream of the future."

I call this "Tropical Plant Ice Sculpture."

Just enough slippery stuff to sled.

The snow is still falling so no doubt more sledding tomorrow.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Boxing Day holiday

Becca got up early and made crepes for everyone.

And my new mug, Christmas themed.

Jonathon joins the Fuzzy Blanket Club.

Becca got 1000 pounds of film makeup goodness.

Cat doing what cat does.

Becca also got some clothes from the Grands.

Nicholas was all like "Yay?"

Best. Gift. Ever. for a 14yo.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Non-traditional Christmas Day

A few last words from Dad.

Compared to most people, we travel light.

And she was off, back to the States to have Christmas
dinner with the grandparents.

Christmas dinner at the Athens airport.

The Athens airport is not awesome, but does have a small museum.

Look, ancient stuff.

Becca tries absorbing information.

We call this "Ancient Stuff with Balanced Water Bottle"

There were Christmas trees but this palm type thing
was more reflective of our Christmas Day.

Our day room at the Sofitel gave Greek Christmas cookies gifts.
It made the 8-hour layover a smidgen better.