Thursday, January 28, 2016

A long and winding road

Becca is still... still!... working on getting her driver's license here in Jordan.  Oh yeah, she knows that driving here will be on an as-needed basis because goodness, she'll be unlearning a lot of bad habits when she lands at her next destination, whether it's the U.S., England, or Germany.

But in the meantime she's taken on the task of getting a legal license.  Driving here doesn't occur until 18 years of age. After turning 18, it takes a minimum of 20 hours of road-driving with an instructor followed by a computer test of road rules, and then the driving test on the course.  Or a driving test to get falafel from the nearest shop.  It depends on the test instructor and what they feel like asking the student.

She's nearly done with her 20 hours and sat for her first computer test.

She failed.


How could she have failed??

She'll go in for attempt two in a week or two.  And if you're wondering, these are from her practice book.  Yes, there's a practice book.

If you can believe it, she said the actual test was even more impenetrable.

She's got guts, that one.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A revelation

So the other day I was talking with Ian and mentioned that this move and home leave feels different than all the rest.  He pointed out an interesting note - this is the first "normal" move we'll do.  Every circumstance in the Foreign Service is an "it depends" moment - how do I get my 3 cats from point A to point B?  It depends.  Will I be able to buy a car at my next post? It depends.  What school should I apply to? It depends.  What training do I need?  It depends.  Everything ends with "it depends." And with all our moves, we've had a lot of "it depends" simply because none of them have been "normal" moves (quotes because there's no move that's a normal move, but, whatever).

Between Manila and Togo we had 6 months in the States for French for Ian.  Home leave was wrapped into those 6 months.

Togo to Chennai was a direct move with no home leave between.  We took home leave a year later for our round-the-world trip. Left and returned to Chennai.

From Chennai we went to the States.  Took our home leave, moved into our house, stayed there for 3 years.

Here in Amman, we extended a year so 2 years into our tour we took our home leave.  Left and returned to Amman.

This time, we're packing up the house, doing home leave in the States (4 weeks vacation, 2 weeks of class/consultations), then moving on to another foreign post.

 It's a long period of transition whereas every other time we've moved from one relatively permanent place to the next relatively permanent place directly.

No wonder it feels weird, because it is weird.  For us. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

And so it begins...

It's January in a PCS (permanent change of station) year.  You know what that means.

The cats' rabies documents are sent to the vet to see what they need and when, in order to reside in the EU starting this fall.  I think we actually have a rough plan in place for getting them to Germany without coming to the U.S. or even traveling alone, which is awesome.  The rabies titre is everything it seems, so we're on it.

The boys' (just the boys!) documents are in to the Frankfurt International School, except for the bus form (need a German address) and the recommendation letters from teachers, and semester 1 grades from this year (coming out next week).  Everything else is done.

Ian is plugging away on his prepping for Frankfurt items.  On Monday I'll set up our HHE mid-May and UAB early-June pack out dates to beat Ramadan and everyone else who wants to pack out on the same day but aren't thinking about it just yet.  Hah.

The cleaning out of closets and drawers and cupboards continues.  Becca is working on her room today.

We'll advertise the car in March for a June 9 delivery date.  We have a second car that we haven't been driving.  Bought it last summer and it basically sat but for a few times we've used it.  Found out it wouldn't start.  And wouldn't jump.  So we brought in a mechanic who said it needed a new engine.  That's not happening, and since the car was for Rebecca once she gets her license (half way there!) so she could get to basketball practice and such, it's rather annoying that we bought a lemon.  The car is older and we knew it had some quirks, but the engine shouldn't completely quit after a few months of not being driven. What to do with it now?? Suggestions?

Plans are forming for our home leave in the U.S.   Every 2-3 years, we're required to go to the spend at minimum 20 working days being American.  It's an expensive forced vacation no matter how you look at it, and unless you're coming from WHE (the western hemisphere countries), you're faced with jetlag.  If you don't have a home somewhere that you can occupy for a month or two you're couch/basement/hotel/airbnb hopping.  With a rental car.  Throw in all the stuff we kinda need to do to not sit like lumps... because you're not allowed to work and the kids typically aren't in school.

So we're going to Florida for 2 weeks, then will make our way up the East Coast to my parents' home for a couple weeks (if they'll have us), while Ian has a week of FACT and then some time in DC while he has consultations.

Then to Germany.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 is complete, on to 2016

So what were the highlights of your 2015?

If I can speak for the rest of my family, ours was the travel.  Ian and I were very lucky this past year to do several trips together, the kids did trips on their own, and we had a couple as a full family as well.  Our Starbucks mug collection grew happily.

Looking back, 2015 was a great year. There were tears, there was anxiety, but overall a firmly positive note. I mean, I didn't even get sick. So many of those "Year in Review" lists of questions for thoughtful pondering ask the deeply profound sorts of questions, like: What mistake did you make that you wish you could undo? I have no desire to go through the dirty laundry and skeletons, partially because there's not much there, and partially because this is a public blog. Seriously people. Not going there, but at the end of this I'll put in some, uh, thoughtful thoughts.

The first day of 2016 is a rainy and happily not snowy day, with gingersnap apple crumble baking in the oven and a cup of homemade hot cocoa in my hands. This is my happy place. An early (well, earlier than the other people who live here) quiet morning, sipping a hot drink, reading stuff online, listening to the music I want to - this morning is all The Piano Guys off YouTube, everyone knows them, but the Fight Song/Amazing Grace and Silent Night with Placido Domingo were new for me today -, writing a blog post, thinking about whatever I want to think about, while hoping we don't lose yet another patio table due to the gale force winds outside.

In a previous post I mentioned the past four years of Words:  GO. OUTSIDE. CHANGE. SIMPLIFY.  These aren't resolutions, rather they are ideas, and they are purposefully vague. So many times, comfort is what I seek. It's a natural outcome of how I was raised with the moving and the changes and so much of my life in a constant state of flux. Comfort and not-changing is what I seek.

It can also get boring and rut-like and stagnant. I'm totally OK with that when it is my life. Yeah, I prefer it. But I also know that nothing is permanent. This year we once again face an international move, with an extended trip Stateside in the middle. The challenge of transporting 3 cats, selling and buying cars, enrolling kids in a new school, sending both girls to college in the Fall, adjusting home life expectations when my husband's next job will involve a lot of travel to places that aren't always awesome, considering my own work plans, anticipating driving in a country with non-arbitrary rules, cleaning out every nook and cranny of the house we've lived in for 3 1/2 years so far. If you let a move overwhelm you, you'll drown.

Enough of that. We have 5 months and 1 week until the move.  There's so much to do, but we're ready - all of us. OK, maybe not the cats.  They won't see it coming.

I went back and looked up what I wrote in January of 2015, so here are those questions:

* Where did we travel? ~ It felt like everywhere though it was far from everywhere, but go ahead and look at the sidebar and you'll see where we went this year. We've decided that the last 6 months here we won't leave Jordan, especially as we still haven't camped in Wadi Rum..

* What was the best thing that happened to me last year? ~ This past year was a comfortable, happy year for me. I loved watching my kids grow up.  That may sound trite, but I'm transitioning from 24-hr parent into something new, and I'm liking it.  A lot.

* What did I do last year that I'm really proud of? ~ Nothing really. It was an even keel sort if year. On the flip side, I didn't embarrass myself too much either.

* Who do I need to thank and acknowledge for having been there for me? ~ My dearest.  I cried to him and laughed with him (and at him).

* What was the top lesson I learned? ~ I cannot fix everything. More to the point, I shouldn't even try, and a realization from 2015, I don't really want to. Primarily this applies to my kids. They are people with the rights to their own thoughts and decisions. I may not agree, but for them to make a decision and stick to it will serve them well. I just want to guide them towards being nice(r) people, but what I've also discovered is that's really not up to me either. It has to come from them.

* What increased my happiness and joy last year? ~ Knowing that Katherine was finding her way. She changed major at school from Nursing to Psych, which was hard for her to accept. But she did it and is happier for it. Seeing her happier, taking care of herself, making her own decisions and living by the results, that makes me happy.  I see into my future that growing as each child goes on to make their own life choices.

* What's something I got through that was really tough? ~ I will probably look back at 2015 as an easy year for me. Nothing was really tough.  That's probably making me lazy.

* What did I avoid that I must pay more attention to in 2016? ~ Not an avoidance, but something I didn't make time for this year: reading.  Pathetically, I think I only read about 5 books this year.  I'm not going to make any sweeping attempts at reading a book a week or X pages every night or whatever, but I do need to read more.  So many books out there, so little time. There's a blog post on WaitButWhy that struck a chord. Some items can't be changed.  There are only so many days left in my life, and I don't know what it boils down to, but something like reading is in my control.  I enjoy it, and therefore it's worth more of my energy.

* What character trait did I develop most this year? ~ Self-reliance.  Here's hoping it'll serve me well over the next 2-3 years when my husband is off doing his thang and it's just me and the boys.

* What new people did I meet that are now in my life? ~ "Meet" is the wrong word.  I meet loads and loads of people in my job, and Ian in his.  It's the people that develop into friends, even a year or two after meeting, that I focus on. This year, Jason and Erin (moved to South Africa), Scott and Sabrina (moved to Jerusalem), Heather and Jeff (still here at Post with us!!), and Shawn (on her 5th year here) are my go-to people.

* How did my Word play out? ~ Last year's word was "Simplify." I tried, but living in one space for several years means gathering a lot of stuff that we don't really need. We'll fix that in the next few months.  Simplify refers to everything though: thoughts, actions, activities, plans, ideas, motives, experiences, expectations, movements, responses, recipes, steps, words... How did that go?  Well, like I said further up, this past year was a good year, and I think part of that resulted from not investing so much of "me" into everything. A lot of people want to put more of themselves into their work, their family, their home, their everything. For me, that's not necessarily a good thing (ask my kids) and a little more hands-off is a good thing for everyone.

Looking ahead to 2016:

* What's my word for 2016 and why? ~ This year's word is "MINDFUL."  It goes right along with Simplify and pushes it a little further. Let's see how it plays out.

2016 promises so much wonderful. I watch the news and think how the world can be so... itself.  But the people I know, the life I live, the places I see, all that doesn't play into the news view of the world, and I'm glad for it. Making someone happier each day. Sharing an interest. Enlightening myself with a new book, a new idea, a new view. Hugging my kids and letting them go to pursue their lives. Loving on Ian as we celebrate 20 years married. Being joyful in the life I've been given puts the bad days in their place, not as a determination of all but as a blip on the screen. I'll snuggle with the cats, squeeze out some creative juices to make our next house a home, and miss all that we've left behind in Jordan.

I'm not out to change the world.  But I'm set to be more mindful of my place in it.