Thursday, December 31, 2009

St. Simon's Island, GA

On Sunday, we arrived at St. Simon's Island, GA and unpacked at our condo to enjoy the week. Chris showed us around FLETC, and we got to see the crackerjack box that is his room. We journeyed down to the Village and Pier on the island and caught a glimpse of dolphins before sunset.

Chris decided to stay out on the island with us for the week, as opposed to on base. We've loved having dinner and sleeping under the same roof every night. Ceiba and I spend our days at the playground or the beach, though the weather is on the chilly side. We explored Fort Frederica yesterday. And occasionally in the evening, we walk uptown for an ice cream.

Looking forward to a 3 day weekend with Papa!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Down to the Shore

We left out from IL on Christmas night around 10PM and arrived in Atlanta around 6AM, where we checked into a hotel for a day of rest. Thinking it would be the only chance to introduce Ceiba to the Atlanta Aquarium, we planned Saturday around that excursion. She LOVED the Aquarium, and Chris & I always love any place packed with fish!
Here are a few pics :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

The eyes are portals to the soul…

You may not have audible words with a stranger, but a sincere look in their eyes permeates your being and you feel their warmth. Many years ago when I was in my teens, I remember being out shopping for the holidays at the mall. I went to hurriedly pass a family to be on my busy way. Their little girl about 8 years old, holding her mom’s hand, turned back to see me with the most true smile I’d ever seen. She was red headed, freckled and developmentally delayed. She looked so directly at me. It was one of those moments that locks into your mind like a photograph ~ forever. I’ve never forgotten her face or the feeling she gave me with no words, just her genuine smile.

Since advising my employer of our family plans for relocation, I’ve been moved out of my high paced international logistics position so someone else can fill my shoes. Now I work at the peddler window where people off the street come in with metal for recycling. It’s quite a change of pace.

We have many regular customers who forage through trash, roadside litter and even dumpsters for their next paycheck. They are recycling and great for the environment, but if you saw several of them on the street, you may divert your path. You’d probably assume they were homeless. Honestly, I think some of them are homeless. But over the last month, I’ve grown to enjoy many of their odd ways, toothless smiles or words to me throughout the day.

Maybe once they had it all, but through life lost a loved one, lost a good job, saw war first hand or encountered mental illness that changed them. Now they are the empty shell of who they once were or a different person all-together. First hand, I understand how things like that can happen. Never do I feel that I judge less fortunate people, but too often I judge people of (what seems on the outside) good fortune, which isn’t right of me either. My mom really impressed upon all of us to treat others as we would want to be treated. She was a saint and the most genuine person I have even known.

So as it gets colder, I try to work quickly to not keep them outside in the weather. Try to remember their names and address them with warmth. Just try to show them respect and share a smile. When one in particular gets his cash and says “Now I can get a case of beer and a joint!”, I look at him, grin and reply “Or you can go buys some grapes and broccoli. That’d be good for you, Fred!”. He just smiles, laughs to me and says he’ll see me tomorrow.

There have been many peddlers to just give the warmest eye contact, the deep into your soul kind, and wish me a Merry Christmas. They make me feel true kindness and prompt me to put it down on paper and feel thanks for the good fortune we have.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ceiba's Holiday Program 2009

We had a whirlwind holiday program tonight at the Goddard School. Out of work, pick up Ceiba, gas up the SUV, drive thru McDonalds (reluctantly, but under time constraints for dinner), home, change clothes, potty, grab the camera, out the door and back to school by 1815 for a quick singing program. Wow, was it quick! Rushed into one room for kids on the rug to sing 2 songs - Ceiba would not separate from me in the middle of so many flashes and people, so we cozied over in a corner and tried to self-record Jingle Bells. Our little bell ringer did a great job!

Aunt Carrie, Jake, Samantha and boyfriend Jake came out to see Ceiba's performance. Grandpaand Grandma unfortunately had an unexpected diversion last minute & were sad to miss out.

But we took some pics to share with them and to show Papa :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad H !

Today Chris’s parents are celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary. Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad H ! They are out of town enjoying a little R&R. I must say, they are very good at taking time to enjoy each other and keep romance in their marriage.

I believe a lot of how we “turn out” is accountable to our upbringing and the examples set for us, though there are always cases of the opposite. And I guess it depends on if you have good examples and want to follow them or if you see things in life that you know you do not want to duplicate. We are fortunate to have had some real “pave the path”-ers to learn from. My parents shared 40 years before they passed away and Chris’s now have been married beyond 36 years. It’s nice to grow up watching your parents work to have good marriages and see (and feel) their love everyday.

Even when they’re gone, you still feel it.

Hopefully we nuts won’t fall far from our tree :)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gift Giving

I have to post this to make Chris laugh and make others smile ...

So what does it mean when you get to the point where you don't buy Christmas/Holiday gifts for each other anymore?

Our first years, gifts were whatever we could scrape up the money to buy- usually clothes, lingerie (newleyweds!) or dinner with theater tickets. Once we bought our first house and were just starting out, every holiday gift was something big for our house- large appliance, new tool, flooring, etc.

This year we'll be together for only a few days, and usually we try to talk about gift arrangements ahead of time.

"I'm going to buy 2 pairs of tactical boots, so do you just want to buy whatever you want for Christmas?" Okay, maybe it wasn't just like that :)

Romance at it's finest! (I jest!)

I laugh, because I know we can be romantic when we want to, but we've also grown comfortable enough to do this kind of thing without drama. Actually, I love that it's this way.

Today I sent him a text: "Thanks Santa, last night I ordered perfume, 2 scarves, Merrell sandals and Seven Years in Tibet for Xmas."

The return text: "And ur giving me crap about a tax deductible holster." Oh, this is another gift Chris picked out to add to the tactical boots. I took it with a smile!

My reply: "My gifts were to look and smell pretty for you!" Hee hee hee. True, but a bit of an stretch.

As we age and get more financially stable, not using the calculator at the grocery store or taking your laundry change into the bank weekly, gifting is not the event it once was. I remember at 8 years old trying to allocate my Christmas money to stretch to each family member, and it was a pretty big family. It envoked so much pride to neatly wrap each present and have the few minutes of anticipation until each loved one opened your gift. I think I gave my brother-in-law John a duck calendar or warm socks every year until I was 18, but he smiled and thanked me just the same. Gifts were a big joy to give as much as receive. It makes me a bit sad that we've gotten away from that. Here's hoping a little one around our house will reignite those traditions.

And I like that Chris's sweet gestures for me happen at the unexpected times. Like when we went to K'auai this summer and the night before we flew out of AZ he handed me a gift. He said I was supposed to open it before we flew out the next morning. The box held a large blue opal pendant, in various hughes of turquoise like the reefs I love. When he saw it, at my favorite local store Beyond Timbuktu, he said it reminded him of the ocean from the air. That was enough romance to give him a voucher for a few years, A+++.

Happy Holiday shopping everyone! Even though it can seem daunting, take a minute to remember what it meant to you when you were young. Maybe write your special someone a note. I know this blog says things to loved ones that I don't always take the time to say when they are in front of me. Try to make time to bake cookies, cut paper snowflakes, cozy up by the fire with some old movies and enjoy the season. Or create a new family tradition! No matter your religion, whether your near family or away or maybe it's the end of a
tough year - ENJOY THIS TIME! And enjoy the spirit in the air, observe the generosity and good will around you. It's out there.... you may just need to slow down long enough to see it :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Small Fish.... Big Pond

A big part of me enjoys feeling eclectic, different, exotic (ha ha ha). Friends and family look at our photos, the museum that has become our home or talk about our travels with interest and wonder. The circle we hang in and area we are from is not the biggest melting pot nor always the most adventurous sort. I'd be lying if I said we didn't enjoy that attention sometimes.

The more I get my feelers out and the more I read, the more plain I feel. Going to the Foreign Service Institute in October for the spouse orientation I felt at first, well.... very ordinary, "Midwestern", boring. Later into the sessions though, I had the occasional bathroom or hallway conversations that made me feel a little neat or well traveled, gave some advice to new spouses and calmed foreign travel fears for some.

I've been reading a lot of expat blogs that are so exciting, that it's a bit intimidating hoping we'll fit in or that our lives may seem interesting to someone else. The exotic cross racial married, beautiful born childrened, well traveled, different religioned groups out there are all so interesting.

We'll go ahead and jump in the big pond and hope to be exotic someday :)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Short but sweet

As I start to type, Chris is supposed to be boarding a plane in Atlanta bound for Brunswick... more than 4 hours later than planned. We dropped him off at Lambert STL around 1330 for a 1500 flight that soon became a 1650 flight, which arrived in Atlanta to catch another flight sans pilot. Oops Delta, who forgot to schedule that pilot and had to phone the on-call pilot, who of course lives 2 hours away and has just arrived not so happy to fly the skies. Chris will hopefully be in his barracks in time to sleep an hour or two before breakfast. Sorry honey :(

So as I get into bed, fluffing his pillows and turning off his bedside lamp, I stop to remind myself that he will not be sleeping beside me for another few months. That sucks ~ we can both attest. Thoughout our nearing 15 year marriage, we have spent many nights apart, most courtesy of the US Coast Guard or the Sheriff's Dept and on rare occasion due to my work. I guess I always thought the 8-5,  M-F lifestyle might seem comfortable and have those fringe benefits like sleeping under the same roof every night. But the years Chris did have those hours (I always have), they didn't really make him happy. So that didn't make me happy either.

People have asked many times over the years if I'm okay with his line of work, law enforcement. I love him and his work is a big part of who he is and what makes him tick. Would I love us to be together all the time? Yes. Or at least sleep in the same state (or soon I may say country)? Of course. Would I love not to be a dummy for tactical takedowns? Not to hear "do you know there's a pressure point here?" followed by the paralysis of one of my appendages and his laughter? But I am so proud of who he is and what he does. And what wife would not love being pulled over with lights and sirens on her way to work for her husband's amusement and a good morning kiss? Nothing like a man in uniform... soon to be a suit and a curly earpiece.

So I'm just my usually sappy self, emotionally enduced by the end of a 4 day (tide us over for 30 more) visit from our favorite guy.  We'll take any moments we can get and savor them until the next time.

Our crazy kid!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

No, I did not chop down the cherry tree

You know the nauseous feeling you get when you have to hide a secret or just "avoid the truth"? Well I've been carrying it around with me at work since April when Chris accepted the State Dept offer. My work, though not my life's calling, has been a big part of my life for a long time. I take pride in a job well done and enjoy my co-workers also on a personal level. Though the company is larger, my office consists of 6 ladies, our male plant manager and a handful of yard guys and truck drivers in and out all the time. We all get along great and enjoy sharing in everyone's family life conversations at work. And though I don't wake up wishing to head out to work, I don't hate it when I arrive either.

I've only had to try to skirt questioning and embellish where needed since last month, when Chris moved to DC. So I've felt sick on more than one occasion and have tried to mentally keep track of which weekends I say Chris is working. I also have had to hide the fact that I'm a single parent at the moment, sending Ceiba to school everyday and pulling double duty at home. Some days I'm just plain tired or preoccupied.

Well, today I asked for a few minutes in private and spoke to the plant manager about our situation. I hope to leave on very good terms and feel obliged to assist in a smooth transition. Oh sure, I hope they'll miss me when I'm gone and praise my hard work and dedication, blah, blah, blah.

But they've also become good friends, and I don't want to leave anyone hanging. My resignation is not submitted, nor do I have a departure date, but work does know our situation. He was VERY understanding, happy for us and appreciative of the head's up. It'll be on the down low for a few days until they decide what to do, but I feel better already.

I wish sometimes I had an on/off switch for the emotional commitment to work, but fortunately or not, it's inherited. Hopefully it'll pay off in the long run career wise (and good karma). Who knows, I may be exporting cargo from Abidjan or Zanzibar in 10 years.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mama better get on the treadmill..... we're moving to MIAMI!

Chris excitedly called yesterday to confirm our first post- MIAMI!
It'll be a few months before we move down, May-ish to be more precise. Chris still has GA and VA training to complete.

Family and friends are happy about our news and their future vacation locale, especially Jake (nephew, 16 yrs) and Samantha (niece, 18 yrs). I could decipher the excitement when Jake's text back to me said- "that's tyte!". Happy to oblige kiddos! They were only 5 and 7 when they got to visit us at the beach when we lived in Clearwater, while Chris was in the Coast Guard.

We're looking forward to heading back to palm trees and sand.... and working on our Spanish!

Monday, November 9, 2009

And then there was 1....

day until we find out our first assignment. Chris has Flag Day tomorrow, so we are on pins and needles about where we'll be posted after training.

Though there aren't many options (CHI, DC, LA, MIA, NY, SF), there's still anxiety waiting to hear where we'll be spending the next 1-3 years. Very few openings were available in our top 3 cities (MIA, SF, LA), so though we can hope, we aren't terribly optimistic for our choices. Sorry family/friends, you may or may not get to have cheap beach vacations (yet). Washington D.C. is always a likely option for our next post, and probably will continue to be - whether its the first time bidding or the 5th time.

We'll go where the State Department needs us (we hope for the next 15-25 years), but we really hope it starts with an "M" and has palm trees and ocean. Wherever we end up, it will only be for a few years and will be a new experience for all of us! Now we just need the house to sell, ug.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Early Birthday

  On my birthday eve, Wednesday, we happily received a visit from the photographer who shot pics of our family casually at home in IL a few weeks ago. A super FUN present for me! I tend to be a photo nut, and though more sluggish now that I'm a mama, I still enjoy the memories photos envoke more than just about anything else. Flipping through pictures of beautiful vacations, loved ones now gone or just a mess covered favorite kiddo of ours can be the perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon.

As the house is now for sale, we wanted to remember what a beautiful home we had in Illinois. Leaving this house, acreage, greenhouse, creek (sniff, sniff) is one of the hardest things to do. But hey, we have the blueprints and can always build it again. Something tells me after we've lived in Madagascar, Argentina or Myanmar (wishful thinking, aye?) we may not miss this house quite as much. And if we do, I'll just pick a rainy day and sit with the memories.

Whatcha gonna do?

So we are fast learning the timelines given in Chris's line of work are always subject to change. While happy to be told about his school 2 1/2 months in advance, it was hard to pull things together when travel orders weren't issued until less than a week before his report date. A coordinator in DC advised there would be a week of off time between orientation training completion and the start of GA training. This would allow him plenty of time to get home, swap business for casual/workout attire, get the car, see the fam and head down to training. Ahh... nope.

So now we are in the mode of figuring out what will work best logistically. A bit inconvenient for Chris, he will probably fly to IL in December, enjoy a dash of Christmas and then all of us drive the little VW Golf to GA, where we'll visit for another week before coming home sans Papa.

The 3 of us in a Golf for 860 miles in the winter with luggage.... well, an adventure in itself.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Miss you Papa - XO

Have a great first day tomorrow! We love you!

Friday, October 23, 2009

On your marks.... get set....

Tomorrow Ceiba and I will take Chris to the airport to fly out to DC for his State Department orientation. Then tomorrow afternoon, a woman is coming to pick up my greenhouse plant collection, which she bought a few weeks ago.
                    Ceiba & I this past spring

Wow... it's going to be a rough day.

When I say how excited and optimistic I am for the future, it's honest and deep felt. But letting go isn't always the easiest thing to do. Whether it be deciding we don't need 50 handmade family doilies, parting with plants acquired over 15 years, sneaking happy-meal toys to the trash or taking your spouse to the airport (for maybe 3 weeks or maybe 3 months) - it isn't easy. Being a sentimental sap really is not a desirable trait when trying to move your household. We brought home more Johnson "stuff" than would ever be used, but it was sentimental at the time. I am learning to live on memories and pictures and trying to get better at liquidating material things. Though gratifying, it is a slow (but thorough) process.

A good friend said to me "change is never comfortable". I find that being my mantra these days. I make lists on paper and in my head, conquer a room at a time, jump each hurdle and press on. For the finish line is just beyond my line of sight, and oh how we want to get there!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Less than a week....

until Chris leaves for DC (since it's technically 1AM on Sunday).

I've been planning to blog about our new chapter in life since April, when we knew Chris got his new job. If I had started before now, it would have likely bored you. This first postings could go on forever, so much anticipation, so many unknowns, so much yet to do. We are trying to take it a day at a time and not think too far ahead, since we don't know many specifics yet anyway.

This blog will be about our life from my mind. Chris will be tied up for quite a while, and I have the rambling mouth anyway. In going through basement boxes, I found old journals back to when I was about 12 years old. Maybe this can be my new way. A bit more public than the others, but a good record nonetheless. This will probably be more of a family update than a work update, as we've talked to most of you about previously. I'll try to hold your interest ;)

This lifestyle will be a good fit for us, we hope it will be. Every vacation leads us to the usual thought of "Call our family, tell them to sell our house. Let's just stay". It isn't a random or rare thought, it's an "every time we go on vacation" thought. It's a "decorate our house", "eat from where we love", "listen to world music", "grow exotic flora", "watch subtitles for culture" way of life for us. We know some think us crazy to sell our house and jump into a sea on unknowns, to take our daughter out of the US and leave good jobs that we both enjoy here. You can't say we haven't said it might happen. But don't think there aren't those rainy days that we wonder if we're nuts too.... but we know we aren't. This has been a long time coming. We've thought it out, for years and years. And we always come back to these adventurous dreams. When you put two people with the same thoughts together, well that's how we've gotten to this point. For us, it's a good's a great point. It's a happy and excited point. Life is way to short to wonder. We hope everyone shares in the adventures we hope to experience. There won't be a day we forgot where we've come from and the family and friends that we love. The future quality time with family and friends may just be on a beach in the Seychelles or a mountain in Nepal.

Our life a week from today will start a new chapter.... beyond the cornfields.