Thursday, August 22, 2019

Limbo still bites

I'm not just sitting around doing nothing.  OK, cards on the table, I do take a lot of naps.  And I do sit around quite a bit.  I'm usually working a crossword puzzle or a cross stitch to not be a total lump. I also made a crocheted blanket, because why not. And I've seen a number of people:

Coffee with Donna.
Dinner with Anne.
Lunch with Alaina.
Dinner with Kelly.
Dinner with Alaina and Lisa and their families.
An Amman reunion that celebrated a retirement with Sue, Ro/Ragini, Annie, Peter/Paivi, Susanna/Sean, Sandra/Aaron, Eric, Manju, and Adnan/Claire.
And a lunch with another Amman group of Jenna, Shawn, Annie, and Beth.

I've made dinner once a week here in my parents' home (butter chicken, enchiladas, dinner salad, brunch for dinner, thai curry, orange chicken). Jonathon and I had a LotR extended-version marathon at the Alamo Drafthouse (12.5 hours in the front row....).  I go to Jazzercise once a week with my mom. Then there is laundry, tea and coffee drinking, book reading, packing and sending boxes of stuff to the kids who I don't see.  All under the haze of worry about things I can't control, so I make do.

The kids seem to be chugging along. Becca decided to skip her fall quarter and continue working for a few more months. She's promised she'll go back and finish her degree afterwards.  Katherine is working more and I'm glad I get to see her every month or so, most recently for Jonathon's birthday dinner. Nicholas is out in the field a lot so I don't hear as much as I'd like, but he got his first tattoo so now it's only Jonathon in the family without any ink (my guess is it'll stay that way). Jonathon has almost completed his required hours for his learner's permit and has an appointment for his visa, so we finally have baby steps forward on those fronts. Ian is at post and doing OK.  The highlight this week is he's opened his section for some working dog training.  Each day packs of pups come through and look for whatever it is they look for, and then the team gets to pet them all.  Sounds like a perfect match.

So nothing is ideal.  We all miss each other (except for J, who is just about sick of me right now - this is not how most 18yo want to spend their super long summer) and aside from me everyone has structure in their day in places far away which is great yet makes it hard to see each other. It heartens me to know they are all doing as well as they can under their various circumstances.

But yeah.  I miss them.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

We're half way through August.

There's so much running through my head, and at the same time so little.  The broken record is well past getting old.  My husband is still in Baghdad.  I am still in VA.  Jonathon still doesn't have a visa for school (he made it into Essex! But that apparently was the "easy" part).  The car still isn't registered in GA.  There's a lot of "still....".  The past 6 weeks have felt like taking painful slow steps through a river of molasses, then turning around and seeing you can still touch the departed shore.  It's mind-numbing, it's frustrating, it's exhausting. Some days I'm cool with it - it is what it is, keep your chin up - and other days I curl up in the twin bed in the room I slept in in high school and try to remember to be grateful that I have a bed in a bedroom where I can stay as long as I need to while I wait.

Maybe we'll hear something positive today.  Maybe I can take a giant step forward in something. Anything. Maybe one part of all this will be finished/settled/decided one way or the other.  Because that's the thing.  Tell me hard truths.  Tell me what I need to do.  Tell me there is a decision point somewhere and once it's past, it is done.

This limbo bites.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Today is my birthday. I'm half way to 90.

Ian left on the 28th and arrived on the 30th at his new post.  I'm still in Virginia, hoping I'll get to join him.  His birthday was last week, mine is today.

While we're apart I'm doing what I can reasonably do to see the kids and friends and keep myself busy.  Nicholas flew up on the 4th for his long weekend.  We met Katherine for ice skating.  I took the boys to the Marine Corps Museum and to see Spiderman: Far From Home. And then he went back to NC, and Katherine went back to MD, Becca is still in GA, and Jonathon went back to his summer job (which thankfully is right here so he's still with me, I just don't see him all day).

A friend invited me out for a birthday dinner, which was awesome. We went to Zinburger and I had a Beyond Burger aka an impossible burger, with vegan cheese, vegan mayo, and pretzel bun. It's my first one and was actually pretty good. The catch was that I had a milkshake with it.  For those who don't know, I'm pretty sure I have some level of lactose intolerance. Took a while to put the clues together, but by eliminating most dairy and carrying lactaid for the times I forget, I've felt so much better.  Problem... forgot the lactaid with the milkshake. Not a great way to end my birthday, that's for sure.

This morning I was supposed to go out for coffee with another friend and the rains of the century fell (or was it two centuries?) with 4 inches coming down in about 45 minutes. Flash floods hit and generally flooding went on for hours, so it didn't seem wise to take on the roads.  We rescheduled for tomorrow, which is good because she's leaving to her next post soon.

I'll be out of town for a few days, but then free again.  I don't have a car, but if you're in town let's talk.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

All preparations have been made.

The past two weeks were busy for me with a week-long course about Iraq (its history, relationship with Iran, economic problems, our presence, customs, living in the diplomatic quarter, etc), followed by a week of "how not to die at post" training. Yesterday we finished up as much paperwork as we could, got my account working again, picked up our visas, and Ian received his flights from Amman to Baghdad.  So yes, he's going and going on time.  I am all set to go on time, which won't happen, but anything after that will require more hoop jumping and paperwork to change dates - and if I leave anytime after early August then my visa expires and I'll have to resubmit and then wait for the new visa which can take a couple months.

It's funny, right?  For our entire married life we've had kids.  We planned this for now precisely because all the kids would be where they need to be, and we'd get our first year just us really together.  In Baghdad, yes, but us.  And now we're potentially facing a year even more separated than we've ever been.


Saturday, June 8, 2019

Frankfurt... a lifetime ago already

Graduation was wonderful, primarily because we watched our fourth, our baby, our not-so-little young one hit that stage-walking milestone.  The venue was nothing special, the speakers were fine, our seats were off to the side, and the tears came anyway.  As much as it was a completion for him, it was for us. In another 6 weeks he'll be 18.  Then he'll be off to university. And it'll be Ian and me for the first time since before we were married.

That's the plan of course.  It looks like Ian will head to post on time and I'll hunker in limbo stateside until I'm allowed to join him, or until some point where we decide that Baghdad just isn't going to happen for me and I find a place to settle in and wait for his return.  It's not what we imagined, it's not what we wanted, but this lifestyle, like any one really, is full of twists and there's no amount of planning that can arrange for every potential upset.  I'm super lucky I have parents who will welcome my 44 (nearly 45) year old self back, and loads of friends in the area who are all in some form of transition themselves. My parents raised me overseas in Embassies far and wide, so they get it, and so do all my Foreign Affairs family folks.

The kids are all on their paths, Ian has an idea for what's in store, it's just me in limbo.  And that's fine. I'm not alone.

We left Frankfurt on a beautiful and warm Sunday morning and after some time I know I will miss being there.  To be honest, I do miss the roads and drivers already. The street lights and turn lanes in Northern Virginia make no sense. Ian drives everywhere (I drive at post, he drives on vacations) and I've been doing a spectacular job of backseat commentary and making him crazy, but the folks behind the wheel here just aren't very nice and they have some reason for it... the traffic patterns make no sense and are geared to leave people stranded in the middle of intersections or stuck at lights.  I'm annoyed and I've been here a week.

Though I may not go to Baghdad - but all the paperwork has already been processed - this past week I spent in Iraq Familiarization class. Suffice to say that it could easily be a 1-day class with required online lectures for the other 24 hours. There were days that my backside went numb from all the sitting, and jetlag is not your friend when the job is to quietly listen for 6 hours a day. Next week's training is FACT (Foreign Affairs Counter Threat) or Crash Bang.  There's noise and running around and hands-on programming.  I've been told it's fun.  They've fully phased in the requirement for all direct hires in all regions to take FACT (someone realized that accidents, emergencies, and terrorism don't just happen in war-torn nations) and it's good for 5 years. Completing it now isn't a waste, for when we do go abroad again it'll still be valid for me.

That's not to say I'm all that excited about heading to West Virginia for a week.  If Ian does go to post on time it tacks on another week apart.


But today is a day to visit Katherine.  So we're off and making the most of June that we can.

Friday, May 24, 2019

It's been a month, so bear with me.

Because as far as months go, this one has been a bit of a roller-coaster. Only a bit though, and it could be far worse.  There's so much out of our control that we just have to look at each other and repeat (ad nauseum) "It'll work out" because... well, we just have to.

Let's just do an update, shall we?

Katherine.  Katherine is in Maryland and we delivered 2 cats to her when we came over for Nicholas's boot camp graduation. It was a shock to our furballs. Not only tossed on a plane for 8 hours, but then driven for an hour, and relocated to an apartment that was entirely foreign.  Katherine traveled with us to SC for the graduation, so her SO had them alone for those few days.  They were not amused.  So not amused.  The smallest, tightest, furthest corners became their hideaways.  But Katherine came home, they've adapted, and all is right in their world again.  Katherine has herself a basic clearance and is bar tending at the nearby military base which she seems to thoroughly enjoy.  A while back she worked at Medieval Times, followed that with some bar tending here in Frankfurt at our Fieldhouse Wunderbar, and now serves on base. I think it's a good thing for her right now, flexible evening hours and she's comfortable.

Rebecca. Becca is in her 3rd year at SCAD. She's settled on Production Design and is thoroughly enjoying herself.  Her instructors can see her value too - in her creativity, ability, and tenacity. She was nominated for a paid contract with Tyler Perry Studios, drove to Atlanta for her interview, won a spot, and is currently commuting between Savannah and Atlanta to take classes on some days while working set design on the others.  Once the school year ends she can move to Atlanta full-time for the rest of the contract (which, have I mentioned, also provides housing?). It's an amazing opportunity for her and one she doesn't take lightly.  Mokka travels the 8 hours back and forth with her and seems to just love the outdoorsy time in Atlanta.

Nicholas. PFC Hopper is training to be a mortarman and seems to be loving it. There's a story there, of course there is.  All Marines are rifleman, but to what degree depends on their MOS, or their Marine Corps Military Occupational Specialty.  Some do 5 weeks of infantry training and then move on to their non-infantry MOS - chef, truck maintenance, pilot, there are so many so check out the MOS list here. Others do 11 weeks of infantry training and go into an Infantry MOS, one of which is mortarman. I said there was a story, but now that I'm trying to write it I realize that operational security is telling me not to. I mean, I wrote the whole thing and the further I got the more it made me nervous. Those darn AFN commercials! So suffice to say, he's in mortarman training and he's learning so much (oh, he thought he'd get away from school work, huh?).

Jonathon. Jonathon has finished his exams and gets the rest of the time off until graduation. He is provisionally accepted to the University of Essex in the UK, because of course he is.  We'd finally figured out the U.S. college system, so he's going UK. It all depends on his test scores of course and though he assures us that all the exams were "fine" he did recently note that on the English exam he confused Hamlet and Macbeth.  So... I'm sure that won't hurt him too much, right? It's only English Literature question about the Bard in an IB curriculum for a UK school. He's thoroughly enjoying weekly volleyball and ultimate Frisbee and we'll all miss these wonderful community events when we leave. In the meantime, we're already packed out and just have the PS4, AppleTV, and his Alienware thing to keep us occupied.  Oh, and Gloomhaven, can't forget Gloomhaven.  Since Gloomhaven is going in our UAB it's still with us until Tuesday, so I think we have one more campaign in us before it's boxed up indefinitely.

Us.  Oh, Us. As everyone knows, Baghdad is our onward assignment.  The movers came Monday and Tuesday and took 4600lbs of our belongings to storage.  For Baghdad we're lucky we get to bring 900lbs of belongings in an air shipment, but everything else we own is going into a unit somewhere to wait. Until the 28th we have our suitcases and UAB and welcome kit.  After the 28th we have our suitcases and welcome kit.  After the 2nd, we have our suitcases, but we'll be in a hotel, so alles gut.  And then the 28th of June arrives... and as of right now Ian will be heading to Baghdad alone (maybe...) and I'll be living with my parents.


Baghdad is the issue. Mission Baghdad is currently on Ordered Departure, which means that everyone considered essential - who is already at post - can stay. Non-essential employees (read... 80+% of State and USAID, and some others) were ordered to leave.  And if an essential employee was out of country for any reason they cannot return.  And new employees whose position is essential cannot arrive. That's as it is today. Tomorrow it may change.  But what we do know is that my position is non-essential so I will not be heading to Baghdad at the end of June.  Ian may not, but I will not.  As of today.

Of course we are lucky in many regards.  The kids are all in place.  We're not freaking out any elementary school kids or trying frantically to find a home in a great school district.  My parents have said I can stay with them as long as I need to, and our hope is that the ordered departure will be lifted shortly and I can join Ian when it does.  It may be wishful thinking, but it's where we are. Our air shipment is earmarked for Baghdad, which is currently not receiving any shipments anyway!  So it will most likely sit in Frankfurt for a while until a decision is made.  Since I haven't been officially told yet that I am not going to Baghdad at any point, and I'm still scheduled for two classes in June in order to be approved for travel, a large chunk of the air shipment is... my things - clothing, hobbies, cooking items. So, yeah.

There you have it.

What do we know?

On 26 May, my mom arrives for graduation. On the 28 May, we pack our UAB.  On 1 June, our youngest graduates HS. On 2 June, we depart Frankfurt.

After that, it's anyone's guess.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Our PFC.

I wouldn't have traded being there for the world.

Today he heads to his next training in NC.

I am back in Germany with Jonathon.  Katherine is in MD. Becca in GA. Ian in VA.

My family.....

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Almost there

Nicholas is nearing the end of boot camp.  He's already a Marine!  Mission accomplished once he completed the Crucible a week ago and these last two weeks are tying up all those loose ends.  Additional training, banking, classes, uniforms, practice, etc.  We'll see him on Thursday.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Nicholas found!

New "Where's Waldo" discovery!

Probably from Friday, January 25.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Nicholas is in Boot Camp

Well, as of January 10th he was!

There's this thing that we're essentially told not to do, and that's to go looking for photos of our recruits.  But here's the other thing, every parent of the kids in this platoon is almost desperate for word, any word. Since these young men gave up their phones on Jan 7, we haven't heard or received anything but a standard 15-second phone call on Jan 9 that we missed (Becca was in class, she got a voicemail which she shared with us), and a form letter that was sent to Becca that she photoed and shared with us.

But there's another thing. Families who go to boot camp graduation tour around the island and SEE THE NEW AND MIDWAY RECRUITS.  And they take photos.  And they post them.  And people see them and share them and we see our kids. Technically, these recruits have not given permission for these photos to be shared, these are not taken by the official photographers that do the uniform photos or build the boot camp yearbook. 

Aside from the rare sneaky photo, we wait for a letter.  Again, it'll go to Becca and she'll share with us, but so far, nothing.

That doesn't surprise us.  He's not much of a writer, and I would guess that if he did write, he would get emotional and he probably doesn't want to do that more than what reading our letters already do. So I get it.  I also know that by the time we get whatever he writes he will already have gone through so much more and his thoughts and feelings at that time are gone and buried under a dozen new challenges and a 100 new emotional roller coasters.

So we rely on the old adage "no news is good news."  As far as we know he's not sick, he's not injured, he's not falling behind, he's not starving, he is sleeping, and he has no hair.

Send good thoughts his way, OK?

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The week starting the day after Christmas was hard...

On December 26, this one went home to Maryland - to her apartment, her new car, her SO, her job.

She won't be back to Germany, but we'll get to see her in April and/or June.

Then on January 2, these two went to Georgia.  It was a long hard trip, Mokka had to be at the airport on December 31 and the pet shippers had everything arranged for her to fly out early on the 2nd.

Then on January 3, this one shipped out to Boston to get over jetlag and in-process at MEPS. He spent Thurs-Mon at the hotel, and Saturday afternoon he spent with our awesome friend Jerry and his kids at the aquarium, then caught a Bruins game in the evening. He was glad he didn't bring a jersey.

To say the house is super quiet now is an understatement. I knew this holiday season would be different - this year would be different - and so far it hasn't disappointed.

Jonathon is going to have far too much parent time....

We have a trip to Wroclaw, Poland and Geneva, Switzerland yet...

.... and several other things, but for now, how about this?

It only took 2 hours and here it is under a "second skin" wrap, with blood pooling at the bottom. I never knew tattoos bled. You know, sometimes it really is better to go into something without knowing anything about it.

48 hours later and wow... it looked awful but was also time to take off the wrap. The wrap kept the sheets clean.

Oh the suspense.....

Wrap off and pretty sure that the blobs all over weren't part of the original sketch?

A shower, some gentle soap, and some healing cream and I. Am. DELIGHTED.  It's gorgeous.

I have to say that I don't think I'll ever get another one. BTDT. It has everything I want on it and don't let anyone ever tell you it doesn't hurt.  Thick lines hurt. A lot. So very much. The last twenty minutes were no fun at all.

But it was worth it. Ian and I made a deal years ago that if the Caps won the Cup we would get tattoos.  I think the original intent was matching ones, and you've seen Ian's...

Full splendor with the Cup and the year.  Very cool.  I guess I wanted one a little more personal and I don't regret it one bit.