Friday, December 13, 2019

After the letters, begin the photos

After reading through so many letter and postcards, and deciding most of them were ready to be let go, it was time to start on the photos. Before the advent of digital photographs, well before the birth of smart phones and Instagram, every roll of negatives was printed, and for a period of time often printed in duplicate. That's a lot of paper and ink. That's even more fuzzy images without a delete button. And when you decide that your kids should snap photos of the world from their vantage point, it's a lot of sidewalks and shoes. Fuzzy sidewalks and shoes.

And for some inexplicable reason, I kept them. In boxes, in envelopes, in albums, among letters and cards and mementos. Sometimes I was good, and a trip's worth of photos were culled to a reasonable number and housed -in order- -with notes- in a small 4x6" album. Go me. But let's be real, that was not the norm.

So along with the old boyfriend letters, out went the old boyfriend photos. Along with the kids' toddler doodles went the half-face-grimacing-in-a-swim-diaper photos. I have plenty still in my little box, only now the little box is 1/2 full with only photos that bring a smile and are reasonably discernible.

I'm not done yet. Of course I'm not done yet. There are more boxes of photos to go through. So many more. But it's a good task, and an easier one with Becca asking the ever lingering question "Really?" Because the most, the answer is (after a big sigh) "No, I guess not" and off it goes into the land of memory, ready to fade into merely a hint, a shimmer, of my history.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Wading through the past

I really enjoy writing paper, envelope, stamp letters.  I like sending mail, I like receiving mail. Before email and Messenger and Skype and Facebook, letters were where it was at for catching up on everything after "I'm so sorry I haven't written in sooooooo long!"  For 20¢ (a little more for international), I could send pages and pages or a single card to a friend somewhere else in the world.  Getting a letter or card filled with words of encouragement, love, or "this is what I did today, how about you?" was simply connectivity at its finest.

But man, after Ian and I built a family together and email came about, fewer paper letters overall and I quit writing in general, and so did all my friends. I have sifted through stacks of Christmas cards, Valentine's Day cards, Easter cards,  starting in the late 70s. When was the last time you received a Halloween card in the mail from a friend? Granted, I'd much rather receive a letter than a card any day, but the sheer number of cards I've read through in the past couple days...

Because I am reading them. Each one. Each card, letter, note, newspaper clipping, postcard and I have some thoughts so bear with me, or just skip the rest.

* My best friend from Algiers, my longest friend starting in 3rd grade, I didn't realize that I'd kept in touch with her through almost the entirety of high school. And then poof, nothing. I have no idea where she is, so if you know a Nadia Othman who was in Algiers and the child of Iranian and Polish parents, can you hook me up?

* Middle school was one of the highlights of my life. Friends from Niger came to my wedding. I still know where a bunch of them are and follow them on FB. These were such special people and I miss them. When I left Niamey, the letter-writing began in earnest.

* My two closest friends from high school, Meredith and Kristin, are FB friends and we wrote back and forth all through college. Long letters about college life, semesters abroad, summer jobs.

* College. For as poor as we all were we wrote a lot of letters, especially the summer of 1992. I'm FB friends with a number of college buddies and I recall how funny and clever and sweet they were.

* Starting in 1994, the majority of letters I still own are between Ian and I. They are delightful and bring me such joy and contentment. I may not have known at the beginning that he was absolutely the right person for me, but reading through, I should have known. I should have seen it - these letters outlined the building blocks as we head towards our 24th wedding anniversary.

As expected, the full range of emotions are found in all these mementos.

Boredom was pretty prevalent in the summer letters, unfulfilling part-time jobs will do that.  But the flip side was a lot of excitement for school to start up again so our gang could reform.

Joy was a big one too. We shared a lot about our plans and were encouraging and hopeful. There was a block of letters where I told my friends about my engagement and my 1st pregnancy all at once.  I'm sure in the background there's a lot of "better her than me," but in the words there was nothing but well wishes and support.

There are letters from ex-boyfriends and those elicit a word of gratitude for being stepping stones to where I am now - which I hope they see the same way.

There was some angst. Friends falling out with each other, me falling out with them. How I wish I could go back and fix some of the stupid I did. Some stories are pieced together from a note here and a line there. One of my closest friends in college was my roommate of 3 years, but I did what a lot of people do when they find a new love and my roommate suffered for it, and as a result so did I because she's not in my life anymore. Like I said, stupid.

And sadness, there's some sadness in these letters as well. Letters from my parents, cards from friends who tried so hard to be good and kind to me as I shrugged them away, long passages explaining a mistake or a hurt or a desire for something to change.

But most of all there is love, love in all its forms.  Love in concern, love in excitement, love in the pure love of friends sharing themselves with each other. I had so many friends, the letters prove it. People who took out time to write. Clearly, one of my love languages is the written word, because a pad of nice paper, a good pen, and an afternoon to write to someone I care about is a package of happiness, and receiving a letter tells me that person thought of me with the same love (even if they didn't know it :) )

Most of the letters are no longer with me now. It's time to say goodbye. They'll live fresh in my memory for now, and fade once again over time but they won't be renewed. Oh, I've kept a number of them. Ones that chatted about shared adventures or momentous occasions, most of the letters from Ian and my relationship, notes from my kids, my parents, and my grandparents.

In another 20 years I may reread them to touch on again how lucky I am to have been so loved my entire life. Even as I know how lucky I am right now.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A breakdown of R&R #1, Week 2

So we picked up our rental car, a Toyota RAV4 that we really enjoyed driving, stopped by my parents' home for lunch and to pick up some items, then made our way to Fayetteville, NC where I'd booked a loft apartment for the next 2 weeks.  What's in Fayetteville? Besides Fort Bragg, not much.  But it was 5 hours from NoVA so an easy drive, an hour from Raleigh where we knew we were going to a Hurricanes game, 2 hours from Jacksonville and we knew we'd be picking up Nicholas for a weekend, and 5 hours from Atlanta where we knew we'd be visiting Becca for a weekend. Not quite middlin, but middlin enough for our purposes.

We tried to do everything there was to do in Fayetteville.  There for 2 weeks, we had the time.  We ate at Biscuitville. Not really worth it. Since our place was right at old town (old 2 blocks?) we ate at Antonella's and Pierros and Blue Moon Cafe and Circa 1800 and Huske Hardware House, and picked up coffee from Rude Awakenings. They were all really good, so as depressed the area is and how many storefronts were vacant, the eating establishments were great.

They also have a sweet little Cameo Art House Theater.  With 2 screens they have their movies and showtimes posted on the door and open up 30 minutes before whatever show starts them rolling. We saw "JoJo Rabbit" and "Parasite."  "JoJo Rabbit" is wonderful.  You might not think so when the basic storyline is a 10 year old Nazi-in-training and his imaginary friend, Hitler.  But truly, a delightful film you should see.  We read reviews of "Parasite" but left not really sure how to feel about it. Maybe that was the point though.

One day the first week it rained hard all day and the following day it was downright cold and blustery. So we stayed in and watched what some might call "too much TV." We enjoy watching together and haven't been able to, so this was bonding time. The Boys: someone told us it turned dark, and it did, but a good season 1 all around. Killing Eve: clever and enjoyable, an enjoyable first season. Derry Girls: everyone should watch this one, it's so much fun, and if you were raised Catholic all the better. Fleabag: I'd watched the first episode and deemed it overly sad, so we watched the first episode together and Ian thought the same, so enough of that. The Mandalorian: we saw what was out (and we'll catch up later) and if you look at each episode as a short graphic novel mini-adventure, then all is good. We watched several televised Capitals games.

We didn't catch up on The Good Place, The Crown, and several other shows, but that's OK.

On Thursday, we drove to Jacksonville to pick up Nicholas who had just returned from training in California. He went for a massage and medi (isn't that what you call a mani/pedi??), attended a Fayetteville Marksmen game (tip, don't follow GPS to the Crown Center... the entrance is in the back), did the MayDay Escapology room, shopped at Dick's sporting goods to knock some items off his Christmas list, put some good food into him, and just enjoyed hanging out.


On Sunday we returned him to Camp LeJeune.  Until February.


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Thank goodness this stuff is coming in waves.

We received our first shipment (#1/4) into this tiny 2-bedroom apartment. Which essentially means that between each delivery, my job is to cull, cull, and cull some more.  Give things to the kids, throw things away, donate, sell, get-it-out-of-this-apartment-because-more-stuff-is-coming. It's all a little horrifying. And then we do something like buy a couch that comes in a billion parts. And FedEx delivers it to the door. When we aren't home. So I'm sure my neighbors have a great impression of me already. Yay.

I'm staying with my parents this week but going to the apartment to clean up and clean out.  My goal it to have gone through every box, of which there are only 8 left, and at least know what's in them.  A few with kids' books will get closed up again and tucked in a corner.  Sorry Ian.  I will go through them and pull out books I don't think are worth keeping, but Hop on Pop isn't going anywhere. Or The Three Wishes. Or Where's Wally.

The goal once Becca is here and Katherine comes down is to actually go through the stuff piece by piece and pitch, donate, or (heaven help me) keep. There are photos.  So many photos.  Boxes and boxes of photos.  And postcards. And kids' drawings.  So many kids' drawings.  I framed them. So many giant framed kids' drawings.

Today I made it through emptying 3 boxes. Yup, just 3. Cleared out a few photo albums - how many duplicates and fuzzy photos...? Aaaaaaaaaaahhhh. Emptied my suitcase of the clothes I'd brought over.  Did a load of laundry. Made a bed. Stapled platform slats bath together that had separated. Put together a metal rack for the balcony - it'll hold plants eventually. Cleared the kitchen counters. Piled up an assortment of NWT children's items to give away. Posted the dining table and the second bunk/loft bed set for sale on our building page.  If they don't move there... anyone want a dining table and/or a twin/twin loft/bunk?  The dining table is a light wood IKEA round table with 2 leaves and 4 chairs. We're taking $100 OBO for either item.

This isn't the exact loft/bunk, but it's the same style (ours has darker wood, different drawer knobs, no chair, does have an additional dresser, one mattress though you'd probably want new mattresses anyway, comes partially assembled, no instructions but we've put everything together (including the rolly bed) without any so the parts are pretty self-explanatory, entire set available after Jan 1):



Both were used for 3 years before storage, and then sat in storage for 7 years (full disclosure - young kids).  Our apartment simply doesn't have room for furniture that filled a 4 bedroom house (with basement). I know you understand. And yes, we might be a little desperate. These things have to go.  But what if you want the loft without the rolly bed and separate dresser and want it now? Let's talk. The only part I need to hang on to until after the holidays is the rolly. Blogger keeps underlining rolly. Is it spelled roley? Nope, that's underlined too. Oh well.

So today was a moderately successful day.  I want the closets and the second bedroom essentially empty in order to take in the big shipment from ELSO in January, but I fear we'll be stacking things in the hall and I'm pretty sure that's against building policy. We might have to get a storage room. Or two. Can you tell I'm working myself up about this? Because I am.

Deep breath. It's going to be a long couple months and a lot of dust, but I have a self-imposed end date of early Feb when Ian should be home again. And I do have help for my current situation. Becca is with me for 3 weeks, and Katherine will be coming down regularly to help (Didn't know that, K? Now you do.).

One day at a time.  66 days to go.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

A breakdown of R&R #1, Week 1

Week #1 in DC.

My dad was amazing and dropped me off at Dulles airport to await Ian's arrival.  There was time to get a grande iced skinny latte while I waited. Starbucks is smart and has a store right at the international arrivals exit. The latte wasn't for me.

The plan for the week was simple. Reconnect and just be.


I can hear the echoes of dismissal.... there are spouses gone for much longer (he was gone for 4 months) ; back in the day there was no internet (we talked on Messenger several times a week, and IMed daily) ; others have done this multiple times (this is our first) ; so many survive this with small children (ours are all grown) ; many don't have a home/parents/sibling they can stay in/with (my parents have been wonderful)..... and of course the parents with small kids on their third UT back in the 90s living in a hotel. Yes, I hear you.

It's still hard.

We took a Washington Flyer to our hotel in DC and spent the next week doing a lot of walking to fun stuff in the city we love. The hotel location had us shopping at Whole Foods and eating from Sweet Greens and just loving everything about city living.

On that Wednesday Katherine came for an overnight visit to hang out with us. In the evening we walked to Georgetown to have dinner at Il Canale with some friends from Baghdad and enjoyed a leisurely walk and talk with Katherine down M Street. Thursday we started our apartment hunt at Columbia Plaza and -wow- is that place convenient for us State Department folk, but it was visit #1/9, there were a lot more places to see all with their own pros and cons. Katherine was only able to see the first place so couldn't compare at the time, but now that she's seen the apartment we did choose, I think she concurs we made the better choice. We had lunch with her at Founding Farmers before sending her back off to MD and her work. The visit was short but we knew we'd see her again at the end of the month for Thanksgiving.

A performance of "Amadeus" at the Folger Theater. Did you know the play came first? I bought tickets blind and only knew that the two shared a name, didn't have a clue what it really was - and it was fabulous. Highly recommended. Shows are until 29 December I think. A Capitals win at Capital One Center (though it's still Verizon to me) against the Vegas Golden Knights. And after picking up the rental car at National we had lunch at my parents' home before driving to Fayetteville, NC, and out loft apartment for the next 2 weeks.

Five hours is about my max for a day's drive, and I prefer to do it in daylight, so unfortunately Ian did the whole 5+ hours and most of it in the dark.  But the car was great (our first RAV4) and I made it up to him by driving other long hauls, so it's all good. There's lots of time to talk on road trips and we had multiple days to spend in the car. Truly, it's what we wanted.

Our plan for R&R: Long drives where we could talk, or just touch hands. Long walks where we could talk, or just hold hands. Long, rainy days where we could talk, or just hold hands. Long dinners where we could talk, or just touch hands. You get the idea.

We talked a lot. We touched even more. Just call me a sap. It was exactly the kind of week we needed.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Just like that....

We spent a week in DC, 2 weeks in North Carolina, and almost a week in Virginia.

And now he's gone.

But we had so much fun.

The week in DC we had Katherine visit for a couple days which was fantastic - she drove down to DC. We took Katherine out to Founding Farmers for an awesome lunch. We had dinner, coffee, and lunch with a variety of friends. We looked at 9 apartment complexes. I picked up my passport. We went to a Washington Capitals game.

The time in North Carolina we saw Nicholas for a few days which was fantastic - we picked him up from Jacksonville where he'd just returned from Twentynine Palms. We went to a Fayetteville Marksmen game in Fayetteville and a Carolina Hurricanes game in Raleigh. I applied for a job.  I was offered a job. We had a wonderful long lunch with friends in Greensboro. We caught up on a lot of TV - Killing Eve, The Boys, Derry Girls, and what was out for The Mandalorian - there were a few stormy and blustery days that were perfectly suited for binge-watching. We went out to see "JoJo Rabbit" and "Parasite" at the adorable Cameo Art House Theater and picked up coffee at Rude Awakenings. We visited the Airborne and Special Ops museum. We did an escape room with Nicholas (a good one). We drove down for a weekend in Atlanta with Rebecca which was fantastic, and did another escape room with her (a bad one). We saw the holiday lights at the Botanical Gardens. We visited the Civil Rights Museum and ambled through the German Kriskindlmarkt twice. Becca took us to dinner at Alma Cocina. We had a tour of Tyler Perry studios, her home for the past 6 months.

The time in Virginia we moved into our apartment and received our U.S. storage shipment - boxes packed 7 years ago (and so far from what we've unpacked most will end up donated or tossed). We bought a couch from LoveSac and a few apartment-sized furniture pieces from IKEA. We had dinner with my parents near our apartment. We had Thanksgiving dinner with Katherine, Erich, and my parents at their home, which was fantastic. We brought Katherine to see the apartment and had lunch at Matchbox with her.

And we said goodbye.

You know what? I've been pretty sad the past few days. Yesterday was hard. It's time to make another countdown calendar and time to look at the coming months as an adventure. It'll all be OK, I know this. 

But man, the doing is hard.


Sunday, October 13, 2019

J in the UK

My youngest is off on his adventure - university in the UK.  I went along with him to London, we got over jetlag, checked out some sites, before sending him on the school airport pick-up bus to his campus. I miss him quite a bit and I imagine the gray, drippy skies there are a bit of an adjustment too.

The Rosetta Stone. Because if you're in London,
you have to go to the British Museum (it's free).
And if you're in the British Museum, you have
to see the Rosetta Stone.

The Lewis Chessmen.  J was less interested in the
chessman as he was in that little belt buckle.  It was
one of the 5 things he said he would steal from the
museum if he had the chance.

This was another of the 5 items J said he would
steal. Especially the $50billion note in the corner.

We always find this guy (on the left) too.  He's
on loan from Jordan.  I believe he's the only thing
on loan to the BM. Everything else is
"permanently rescued."

We added in a couple escape rooms.  Room one was a success.

Room 2, well, we needed another minute. In each room we asked
for 2 hints.  Not bad.

No photo by the lions this time.

The next day we went to the National Gallery
and found The Ambassadors - from the top right.

A painting of a love goddess.  But all the images
in the back were miserable.

A giant painting, and the artist took the time to
add in this chained monkey, but didn't even finish the
background. Hmph.

The full image is of 2 martyrs. The body attached
to this leg is pierced with a bunch of arrows. But
the bigger question: Who are these miniature people?

During one walk we went through St James Park
and came across the pelicans.

And an adorable cygnet.

Can you really go to London and not see a show?
I guess it's allowed, but why? J has now seen
"The Book of Mormon" and actually laughed
out loud.

And then it was time to say goodbye.

But he allowed a farewell selfie. Does he look
like a college fresher??

Amazon.uk delivers.

One of his first projects.  Building a board game.

It's cloudy and drippy, but he says the leaves are turning.
School didn't start until 3 October so I had a long summer with him, but it does mean that he started school just as the weather was turning blech. The year finishes end of June, so hopefully he'll have some nice days in there to wander the campus grounds without getting soggy.

All in all, so glad to see him a little bit settled.  He's not much for communicating, but he's sharing some glimpses and it's nice to know he's not starving and he's going to class. 

It's all a mom can hope for.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The other half

Ian is my partner (shocker, I know): life partner - parent partner - exchange-of-ideas partner - laugh-at-stupid-things partner - sit-and-watch-TV partner - move-around-the-world partner - adventure partner.

Every time a memory pops up on my FB timeline, I just sigh and smile. 90% of those photos have him in them (the other are the kids, or probably the cats). I miss traveling with him - checking out new foods, sights, and just walking together wherever we feel like. But most of all I miss talking with him.  A 7hr time difference plus a 6-day workweek for him means that we talk when we can, but of course it's not the same. It never is.

It's one of the reasons I took up MPC.  And go to Jazzercise with my mom (don't laugh, it's actually fun - never tell anyone I said that).  And why I'm blogging a bit more.  And reading a ton more.  And made a blanket and now making another, while contemplating how to crochet a vest, and did 4 cross-stitch things for the kids.



Living week to week means I've focused on small, reachable goals. I did apply for a job early on only to make it to last round and tell them I just didn't know how long I would be here, The job went to someone else.  Fairly so, I might add.  I wouldn't hire me.  I've thought about taking an online class and of course now realize I should have started in July.  I just didn't know, and was too unsure to commit myself while thinking that at any moment I'd be moving and starting a new 6day/week job half-way around the world.  Obviously that didn't happen.  I should have just jumped right in.  I didn't. My own fault.

It's just not enough to say that I miss him. I'm needing just being with him. Part of me is missing, people! And I'm totally not embarrassed to say it.  I didn't marry him to be away from him, after all. This isn't "I need space" or "Some quiet time is good."  Both of those are valid, but this ain't it.

102 days done, 27 days to go to R&R#1.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

MPC

So for those in the know - nothing to see here, move along. For those who don't know, MPC is the My Peak Challenge and it's actually like nothing I've ever seen before (not that I ever went looking for an exercise program before, minor detail).  Not just the workouts, but the on-line community, the in-person community (I hope to join when I'm better settled), and the idea that the rest times, eating times, family times, etc. are just as important as the workout. After all, most people spend what, 30 mins to 2 hours in the gym or working out and the other 22+ hours are where everything happens!  Sleeping, feeding the body, keeping it clean, stretching the brain, etc.  It's all important.

Now, I can say I'm all gungho about this because I'm on Week 1, Day 5 of the Foundations program.  Foundations is the part where you learn about the exercises used and start building up strength and stamina.  It's for the weak.  Like me.  But it gets better.  Just about every exercise has modifications, all in video form in the on-line program guide.  As I currently do not have a home and am not part of a gym, I have to make adjustments.  Also, as I am truly weak, I do modifications that make everything, even in this beginner's beginner phase, easier.  No, I cannot do a push-up.  But that's a OK, because I should clarify: I cannot do a push-up YET.

The crazy thing is that because I still end up sweaty and wiped even with the modifications, I look forward to the workout days.  This is not me.  I do not exercise.  I hate exercise.  And yet now I find myself going to Jazzercise about weekly and thinking ahead to when I'll do the next MPC workout.  It's a brutal mindset shift, truly.  I can hardly recognize myself.

But back to this only being Week 1, Day 5 of beginner beginner's month long "get your butt moving, you can do this" phase. I need to have little goals - and that's built in too.  M= My and C = Challenge. What do I want to get out of this?  Well, besides being weak with no stamina and now 45 years old I want to be strong and HAVE stamina.... isn't that enough?  Maybe, but I also want to do another Mud Run or something like it and not be the person everyone waits for during the 5K parts.  I want to do another City Run and not be the one my kids have to push push push to just keep going to the finish line.  I want to never hesitate if someone says we should go do something, even if it's way out of my experience zone.

I've gone white water rafting (OK, they were only 1-3s, but it's a start!), scuba diving and snorkeling, spelunking, mud run-ning, City Dash-ing, sky diving, stand up paddle-boarding, skiing, wall climbing, rock climbing, sea kayaking, river bouldering, but there's so much more. Why not mush? Coasteer? And that Munro Challenge is mine next year. It's not just because I want the t-shirt either.

So now that I've put it out there, I'm committed.  I have nothing in my way for the next 25-30 days to complete the Foundations program.  And since I've done Week 1, I went to the sporting goods store and got a foam roller, jump rope, and stretch band.  The simplest, lightest, and easiest of all.  Because it's still hard for me, and making it really hurt will just have me quit. I need to finish each day, even if I don't finish perfectly or on the hardest setting. So bring on the sweat and the sore legs and shoulders to this puny weak body.

The MPC is also a charity program where a part of the proceeds of the yearly membership goes to charities close to the heart of the gym rat program creators. I'm cool with that.

My membership t-shirt is hanging up in the closet where I can see it every day.  I'll reward myself with wearing it when I've finished Foundations.

Curious?  Check out My Peak Challenge.  I'll be your cheerleader :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

THROWBACK: 5th grade Language Arts

There are some posts that I started months, some years ago, and never published.  This is one of them:

Jonathon's Haikus (the misspellings are his own... yes, he's in 5th grade and his spelling is atrocious)

Unicorns

My horn has magic
My fur is soft as silk
I have saved many

Minitor (he meant Minotaur)

My horns are deadly
I have the strangth of a bull
My ax is pin sharp

Sky Sun

The sun in the trees
Warming all our cold harts
The heat of the sun

And our favorites....

Love

Love is a big wall
And unbrakeable strong force
It will stay always

Dragons

The heat of ther breth
The warmth of ther beating hart
A born warior

The Two Sides

Greed is an Evil
A black hole of all good lite
It has to be slain

Good is an angel
A light in a pitch black room
The life of all things


Caps training camp & preseason

I should wait until after Saturday so I have photos from the Caps-Canes preseason game, but hey, whatevs.

Here's a smattering of photos from training camp that goes on until the season officially stars.  I made my way to Kettler - pardon, MedStar - to watch the team practice.  Lots of new faces for the Caps.




Not new, but man this guy is FAST. Go Hagelin Go!

Samsonov gets lots of 1-on-1 time.

Ovechkin doing Ovechkin.


Looks like the top line.


Kempny in a no-contact jersey.

Holtby watching from the bench. On his BIRTHDAY.

Even scrimmages get handshake lines.

It's been interesting for me because I like hockey, but it surprised me that I like it enough to go do these things on my own.  I'm not a rabid fan, it's fine that the game last night was blacked out and I can't watch until Wednesday and that I already know the score. I certainly don't know any of their junior league statistics.  Some of the new guys.. no idea where they were before here. But I actually like hockey enough to want to go out and pick up some gear, and watch them practice, and follow the various FB and Insta accounts (no Twitter for me, sorry), and find it really enjoyable.  It would be more fun with Ian of course.  But I guess I can classify myself as a fan on my own now.  Perhaps that's no surprise to anyone but me? 

Seriously - the thoughts of a middle-age woman are baffling sometimes.  I weird myself out.

Go Caps!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Progress!

Jonathon has a visa! And is >this< close to a plane ticket. And lucky me is going to go to London with him to send him on his way.  I just realized that I'll have a checked bag allowance but won't need it, so he can have an extra bag!

Becca got the car emissions test completed! And Katherine too! (Girls, put reminders on your phones for the next due date for all your car/home requirements.)

Nicholas made it back to base after the hurricane passed and is now waiting for his promotion to LCpl! And his training trip to Cali!

And most importantly, Ian has scheduled his R&R! He's going to come here! I'll get to see him!  I'm counting down the weeks.  Even though my calendar counts down the days. 76 days passed. Only 53 more to go.

(Please don't ask about my situation... Still. Pending.  At this point, it's a challenge.  How long can this go on?  Oh. We. Shall. See.  Yes.   

We.

Shall.

See.)

So we continue to keep busy.  Right now my focus is on getting J squared away.  That's right around the corner.  And I'm trying to do some fun local stuff. 

  • On Sunday J and I met up with K and Erich at the MD RennFaire and had quite a good time people watching.  So many kilts.  And wings.  And Danaeryses.  
  • Last night on 9/11, not necessarily fun but needed, I took J to see "You Are Here: A Come From Away Story" about Gander, Newfoundland.
  • Tonight I'm off to see the new Downton Abbey movie.
  • Sunday it looks like J and I will be rafting in W.Va. Let's hope the weather holds.
  • The following weekend is full with a pre-season hockey game for J and me, and another Sunday at Games Workshop for J.
  • Somewhere in there he gets his driver's license.
And then we head out to the UK.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Preseason

I picked up some tickets to a preseason game and wish I'd just decided to buy them last week as there were better seats then... oh well.

Caps-Canes....

In honor of the new season coming up, a few throwback photos.







Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Some time in Atlanta

For the long weekend, Jonathon and I flew to Atlanta from DC, and Nicholas flew from Jax NC, and we all met up with Rebecca. Katherine had work over the weekend so didn't join us, and of course Ian is still in parts far away.

On Saturday we arrived and immediately had a great lunch at The Flying Biscuit Cafe, followed by an inside tour of CNN Center, then hung out at Piedmont Park with Mokka, cooled off at the Park Tavern, walked some of the Beltline, and visited Ponce City Market. Since we'd gotten up at 5:30 that morning to catch our early flight, we were absolutely done by the evening time, but it was fantastic to hang out with my younger three.





Sunday was just as busy with several hours at the Aquarium followed by a visit to Rebecca's work place complete with an amazing tour she gave of her workspace and projects.  It was good to check on the Jeep as well even as it's still waiting to get registered.  It's actually good because Becca is getting some driving practice in around the lot without worrying about traffic Atlanta has so much of. After the studio tour, we went for an escape room, and intro for one of Becca's friends.  It was an OK room, not that complicated, and opened up the plan to do another one on Monday.




Monday brunch was at Egg Harbor Cafe, and we spent the hot afternoon playing Jackbox and Settlers of Catan.  Ah, Settlers, it brings out the worst in people sometimes.  Not like Monopoly, but it definitely can bring out a different side to players, and this was no exception.  We did survive with Nicholas as victor, but unfortunately made it to the escape room late.  You'd think being the only players at the facility and the last game of the day that the owner would make an executive decision to let us finish, especially as we had only another 5-10 minutes to the exit, but no.  We ended close after 30 minutes but unsuccessful. Yes, we were late, but every other individually owned place we've been to the owners have been really accommodating with us as relatively seasoned players (we're not tardy people, but usually they'll take quite a bit of time with us especially going through the room after and not watching the clock). Not so the Ultimate Escape Game Atlanta. Which is really too bad because on the whole it was a pretty good room and we would have enjoyed finishing it.



Tuesday was our day to depart.  With the hurricane coming, Nicholas was told to stay out of Jacksonville NC until Sunday so he's staying with Becca the rest of the week. J and I returned to VA and back to our waiting game.  His passport with visa has still not shown up.  My plans are still in limbo.  Nothing has changed here.  But we had such a great time in Atlanta and I'm so glad we went.

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 state.gov 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.

Weird.

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.

*sigh*

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.

WE ARE FINE.

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.