Kangaroos and Quiet

Shhhh…do you hear that sound? It’s the sound of no one yelling “MOMMA!” It’s the sound of no one watching football. It’s the sound of no one packing, or unpacking. It’s the sound of a neighborhood far from the beep, beep, beep of walk signals, and the sirens of a busy downtown. It’s the sound of my first day alone in our new house with nothing to do but sheepishly return to my blog.

I’m going to be the first to admit that I’ve struggled over the last few months. I have grieved the loss of Kinshasa, the Congo, and the people who made up our life there. The fact that I’ve been deep-in-my-core angry at the “new” State Department and the lack of respect it has shown not only to me and the other thousands of EFMs, but also to its own officers, has not helped to get me back in a writing/blogging state of mind. I’ve wanted to come back, but I have not been able to write without ranting and that’s not what this blog is about.

But today is a new day, on a new continent, in a new hemisphere and it’s time I make my way out of my funk.

It’s hard to describe to people what it was like to live in the Congo. For those who live comfortable lives in the first world, it defies description. But it has been even harder to make anyone – even B – understand how profoundly unhappy I was to leave a place that is, in all possible descriptions, a place of hardship. Even now, sitting here in my new and lovely kitchen, with every possible convenience within 10 minutes safe and beautiful walk of my door, I am teary-eyed thinking of the life we left behind.

 

Maybe it is because, as our first post, I was determined to make Kinshasa a good experience and so my attitude from day one was designed to make me as happy as possible. Maybe it was the fun I had speaking French and reviving a long dormant skill that let me use my brain in ways that are rare once you inch toward a half-century of life. And maybe it was simply the people –American, international and Congolese – and the fact that I had not prepared myself as well as I should have to leave them behind. I miss them. A lot.

Foreign Service life is designed as a revolving door. You rotate into a place, spend a few months, and then rotate back out. Just as you are headed out the door you realize where everything is, and what everyone’s name is, and how to navigate the world and streets you live in. And then, just as suddenly, you are in a place you don’t know how and you have to start all over again. This is where I am now, though admittedly learning how to navigate Canberra – a planned city designed for ease of navigation – will not be akin to learning to manage the chaos of Kinshasa.

My first impressions of Canberra are of calm. The streets are bizarrely empty and the quiet is almost deafening. The only noise is the magpies and the parrots calling from the trees. We arrived during a school break and for the first few days I drove around and rarely shared the road with more than a couple of cars. It was eerie.

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C’s school is literally a stone’s throw from the house, and just past that are a couple of great coffee shops and a small IGA. There is even a gym, so when I get inspired I can get back to working out.

We haven’t seen too many (live) kangaroos yet, though B spotted a few while we were driving around over the weekend. Apparently they are everywhere, and they are certainly common enough to be the road kill of choice, but you must have to get accustomed to seeing their brown against the brown of the end of winter grass and brush because we have been peeling our eyes to no avail.

Since we left just as fall was gearing up in Virginia, it is also odd getting adjusted to the upside down-ness of things. The dogwoods and azaleas are blooming here. There are wisteria vines everywhere, and the cherry trees are decorating the roads with their pale pink petals. It smells like my grandparents’ garden in England – rosy and fresh and spring-like. But, it’s still chilly and I want to put on my dark sweaters ready for falling leaves, rather than light jackets ready for spring showers. Lord knows I love a good heat wave, so I am not sad to be following the sun for yet one more summer season, but I am definitely going to be ready for my boots and wooly sweaters (or jumpers if you are Australian – C has already told me she needs a jumper, not a sweater!) in April (see, weird, eh?)

The fact is, no matter how beautiful and utopian Australia is compared to the Congo, I am still going to miss the life and people we had there. But, I’m ready to accept this new reality and work toward making it as joyful an experience as the last two years were for us. And when the door revolves again in 2019, I’m sure I’ll leave with sadness and grief as well. In the meantime, there are new people to meet and make “mine,” adventures to have, and kangaroos to spot.

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Ode to North Carolina (and the joy it brings me)

My love affair with North Carolina began like many love affairs – I was drawn in by looks.

I went to university in Louisiana, but my family lived in Canada, so four times a year, once in summer and once in winter, I got in my trusty Chevrolet Celebrity and drove the 1,300 miles between those two places.  A little over halfway through that journey – 12 of the 24 hours in, I’d hit North Carolina.  In those days (the late 80s/early 90s) North Carolina was the only state I drove through that had wildflowers planted in the highway median.  The program apparently started in 1985 – so by the time I was making my yearly treks in 1987 the flowers were pretty well established and were beautiful.

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My journals from those days are packed away, so I can’t quote myself exactly, but sometime in 1989 during one of those drives when the flowers were particularly beautiful, I wrote in my journal that I had “a new favorite state: North Carolina.”  I’ll never know whether my pronouncement then influenced my choice of law school later, or whether it was predestined that I end up at UNC, but 20 years later – most of which were spent in that state – I still consider it my favorite.

The funny thing about moving in 2015 is that it is not terribly difficult to keep in touch with people. There are phones attached to our hips all day long – and we can not only use them to call the people we love and miss, but we can use them to text, email and facetime those same people.  But it is impossible to keep in touch with a place you love, other than through sporadic visits.  C and I made one such visit recently – spending 4 lovely amazing days in Charlotte, the place that will always be our “home” even when we are half a world away.

We were in Charlotte in March and it still felt like winter in D.C.  It was cold and damp and I spent a good part of every time I was outside reminding myself that I wouldn’t have to endure a full winter again for at least two years while we are in Africa.  To know me is to know that I am ALWAYS cold in the winter.  I feel like I spend months just trying desperately to warm up.  I can’t tell you how many times people say something to me like “but you’re from Canada, how can you be cold here?”  Seriously though – I’m cold EVERYWHERE that it isn’t over 75 degrees.  And besides, I’ve done winter, folks.  Nineteen years of living through Canadian winters was enough winter to last a lifetime.  I’m done with it – a yearly Christmas vacation of snow, skiing, skating and tobogganing is great – but a week of it is enough.

So we left D.C. where it was 36 degrees and we arrived in Charlotte, where, on our first day there the high was into the 70s.  And the trees were budding. And the daffodils were blooming.  I swear I almost dropped to my knees in joy when I saw those daffodils. We were outside without winter coats.  My hands did not feel like Snow Miser was clutching them all the time. It was heaven.

Am I wrong or does Snow Miser look a little like B's boss's, boss's, boss...

Am I wrong or does Snow Miser look a little like B’s boss’s, boss’s, boss…

Then we started visiting – places, people, friends, restaurants and my heart was both a little fuller – and a little emptier.  We stopped and looked lovingly at our house that B and I built – arduously picking fixtures, colors, layouts, making nooks and crannies where there were none, and C asked me if we could stay there.  Then I had to say “No, because someone else is living there now.”  It solidified my belief that we have done the right thing by keeping the house for now and renting it out, because I am not ready for it not to be ours – not ready to shut the door on the possibility that one day we can stay there again.

IMG0289Charlotte, because it is a “young” city – with lots of transplants who are also young – is an ideal city for a child.  I’m convinced that there is more to do with a 4 year old in Charlotte than in D.C., which, with its depth and breadth of history, is more suited to a 10 year old, or 15 year old.  Charlotte is full of museums and parks and places that are geared to small children and we tried mightily to visit as many of those places as we could.

And, perhaps most importantly of all, Charlotte is full of people who mean the world to us.  So, despite what I said above, and despite the fact that it really is SO much easier in this day and age to keep in touch with people, there is nothing quite like hugging the people you love. Sitting with them on a back porch, with the warm (WARM!) sun on you, drinking wine while your children, who were once the dreams you talked about, and then infants together, play in the yard and start the next generation of friendships which will endure through time and, now in our case, space.

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I am going to miss our friends and family without a doubt, but I hope that I will also get many opportunities over the next couple of years to chat with them, talk to them and visit with them.  I know I won’t get that opportunity with Charlotte or North Carolina. The feeling of peace and belonging we feel there will have to travel with us, in our hearts, to deepest darkest Africa, and wherever else this adventure might take us.

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Gluttony

glutton_for_punishment_hat-r26f989937ffb4ad1bfaeb82a8781c695_v9wfy_8byvr_324Apparently I am a glutton for punishment.

And, I’m also a bit of a glutton.

My last day being a practicing lawyer was supposed to be this Thursday, April 30.  I was mentally prepared (and both trepidatious and excited) for that day when one of my partners called me about three weeks ago.

Law Partner: “Hey. So, you know that case you are transitioning to me?”

Me: “Yup.”

LP: “Well, it looks like it is scheduled to go to trial June 1.”

Me: “Yup.”

LP: “Don’t suppose you’d like to stick around and help me try it?”

Me: “Um…I’d have to check with B.” (Mentally thinking that B might, literally, kill me if I work for another 6 weeks – particularly work to get ready for a trial…not exactly “part time” work)

LP: “Well, check with him and let me know.  I wasn’t sure if it was cruel to ask you since we all agreed here that you wouldn’t be able to help yourself from saying yes. But, since I could definitely use the help, I figured I’d just be cruel…”

Ah, these people know me too well.

So now I do not have 3 more days of work left, but 43 (or so) more days.  And part of me is thrilled; SO excited to try a case with my wonderful LP and the wonderful client we represent in this case.  And part of me is, like, “WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU!”  Sigh.

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C is shaking her head too…

In this midst of the hand-wringing over my job, B and I have also been continuing our “gluttony” quest of checking off restaurants on the Washingtonian’s List of the 100 Very Best Restaurants.  We’ve hit No. 1 and No. 95, and 15 others in between, with one more (No. 11) scheduled for later in May and a couple of others that we plan to check off before we go.

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I have to admit that I am not sure I agree wholeheartedly with the placement of each of these restaurants on the list – for instance No. 22 was head and shoulders above No. 15 both in terms of food, and service (price too, admittedly, but still…) and No. 95 was better (and way cheaper) than No. 54, but, nevertheless, it’s been a fun (and quite delicious) way to spend our “date” time in D.C.

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It’s also shocking to me given the quantity I feel like we have eaten in this quest that we have not even cracked 1/4 of the 100 restaurants on the list.  But the quest will continue – at least until we roll our way onto a flight to FullSizeRender (13)Kinshasa – so maybe we’ll at least reach the 25 number before we leave.

 

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In other exciting news, we found out this morning that we got our housing assignment in Kin – and that we got a house! HOORAY! We will be in a compound with a number of other families with young children, and we will have our own yard (Miller, the Dog, is doing his happy dance) and our own pool. SO EXCITED!

We really are doing our best to enjoy our time left in the D.C. and the U.S., and C and I are about to head out on several cross-country adventures to visit family and friends, but after eight months here we are also itching to get on our way to the D.R.C.

With somewhere to live it feels like the countdown is ON!

A musical interlude

Somewhere in the chaos and rush of wifedom and motherhood I have forgotten how much I love music.

Today I’m alone and I’m not working.  Or, at least, I’m not working in the traditional sense, though I am practicing, as my friend MJ says, the “Home Arts.”  I’m cooking for the feast that we will have with four of our best friends tonight.  Standing rib roast, yorkshire puddings (ask someone British if you don’t know what these are – then do your best to get some…), roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, Pavlova (ditto above – just ask someone Australian or a Kiwi) and some homemade ice cream to round out the gluttony.

I was going to turn on the TV while I cooked, but come on, between the ice cream maker, mixer and being on the other side of the room, I wouldn’t hear a thing. So, instead, I decided to open the long ignored iTunes icon and I chose a playlist I made many years ago – before the aforementioned wifedom and motherhood.  I called the playlist “Awe.”  It contains songs that make me feel fully alive – the kind of songs that make you want to dance around, sing as loud as you can, and not care who sees or hears you.  These songs make me feel FULL. Full of life, and love and wonder.   They are the kind of songs that make me cry from happiness, and sadness, and longing and joy.

Most of these songs are not “hits” for anyone but me.  Somewhat obscure bands like Catherine Wheel, The Lowest of the Low and Bob Mould, plenty of ’80s “alternative” music and (for me) some bizarre additions like The Black Eyed Peas.  There are songs everyone knows too, but together this list just, well, sings to me.

The feeling these songs give me is part of the reason I have “blown up my life” (another gem courtesy of MJ) and decided to follow B to the African jungles (even though they might be concrete jungles primarily).

And listening is reminding me that life is full of Awe, isn’t it? In song, in art, in the goodness of other humans, in just looking out the window and seeing a gorgeous blue sky with passing clouds, in smelling bacon cooking. In so many ways.

I have had a million small and large moments of awe this year – it’s been a good one, 2014.  But my playlist is reminding of how much awe there is to come in 2015.  I can’t wait.

I’ve got to get back to my Choux de Bruxelles now, and Spoon just came on so I need to get up and dance.  For anyone who is curious, the whole list of “AWE” is below.

Happy New Year friends.  I hope 2015 is awe-some – and awe-filled – for all of you.

AWE

Litany (Life Goes On)            Guadalcanal Diary

Can’t Stand It                         Wilco

New Year’s Day                     U2

Dreaming                               Blondie

Judy Staring At The Sun       Catherine Wheel

Blister In The Sun                 Violent Femmes

Sit Down                                 James

But Not Tonight                     Depeche Mode

Forever Young                       Alphaville

Song 2                                    Blur

Hoover Dam                           Sugar

Just Can’t Get Enough          Depeche Mode

Love Is Strange                      Everything But The Girl

Heal                                        Catherine Wheel

Do You Realize?                     The Flaming Lips

Life                                         Our Lady Peace

Obsession                               Animotion

Rosy And Grey                       The Lowest Of The Low

I Turn My Camera On          Spoon

Super Bon Bon                      Soul Coughing

So What’cha Want                The Beastie Boys

Gone Going                             Black Eyed Peas

So Alive                                   Ryan Adams

See a Little Light [*]              Bob Mould

Just Like Heaven                   The Cure

I’m Free                                  The Soup Dragons

This Is The Day                     The The

Every Morning                      Sugar Ray

Thank You                             Led Zeppelin

January in Canada

In January 1970, my parents boarded a plane in London, England and flew 3,550 miles to Toronto. They then drove another 2 1/2 hours to a town of approximately 400 people (404 when we arrived) called Arkona, Ontario.  They brought with them a 26-month old (me), a six-month old (my sister) and, according to them, not much else.  They left behind their parents, their siblings, their homes and everything they had ever known.

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Dad 70s

My mother had been born and raised just outside London.  She was 28 and had just finished medical school and her residency. She had never been to Canada, or anywhere in North America, before she carried her two girls onto that plane and set off for an unknown life.

It is cold in Canada in January. There is snow; lots of it.  When they arrived at their little (very little) house, which they had never seen before, and did not “chose,” there was probably not much to see in Arkona except snow.  By mid-January winter is also not that pretty in Ontario.  It has lost the sparkly newness of December.  Christmas is over and there is a long (long) time before the next holiday (Easter) and the next warmth (often long after Easter).  It is a difficult time.  Bitter cold and short days making everything feel lifeless and dark.

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Our street in London, Ontario circa winter 1975 – a lot bigger than Arkona…

My Dad, who had graduated from medical school the year before my Mum, had a job at the local clinic.  When they arrived my mother did not have a job.  My parents had opted to put her brand new – and hard fought – career on pause and move to Canada for the opportunity afforded by my Dad’s new job, hoping that once they arrived she too would be able to find work.

If my Mum wanted to talk to her mother – or father, or brother, or best friend, or anyone from England – she had two options: an airmail letter carefully scripted on vellum-thin blue paper and trusted to the Canadian Postal Service, or a very expensive long distance call with awkward pauses and echoing words across the Atlantic.

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As we embark on this life of perpetual relocation, I am fascinated thinking about my parents in those early days.  Particularly thinking about my mother.  Alone in a cold, unfamiliar place with very little to do and two small children.

I don’t remember a thing about our immigration to Canada, just like, I suspect, C will not remember living in Charlotte, moving to D.C. and, in a few months, moving to Kinshasa.  But, nevertheless, I feel for my mother when C breaks down in tears and asks about her friends, or her old house, or her old bed, because, whether she remembers it or not in 20 or 30 years, right now it is a trauma for her and is, no doubt, having an effect on her.  I suspect, likewise, I was not that easy to live with right after we came to Canada.

On the days when I’m feeling particularly weepy and missing our friends and Charlotte, I wonder “how did she do it?”

I have Facebook, and Skype, and text messaging, and basically free long distance.  When I get bored in our apartment, I leave. I get on the Metro and go into one of the most fascinating and amazing cities in this country (if not the planet), with amazing restaurants and museums and an endless list of things to do, not to mention many of my dearest friends.  My child is in a daycare she loves where she is, in turn, loved and taken care of so B and I can do the things we want and need to do each day.  I know moving to the DRC will be very different – I will not have the freedom to wander around the city and explore it, but, then again, I’m going to be stepping into a fully formed community of U.S. Embassy families who will help us navigate the streets, culture, stores and newness of Kinshasa.  They have a blog that I can read right now to find out what sorts of events are going on (Happy hours, a Burger Burn and the Marine Corps Ball…to name a few), for heaven’s sake.  My mother had none of that.

And, hand in hand with my mother, I also think about all the FS families who have gone before us.  Who have stepped into the unknown of a new post without the internet, Amazon Prime, Skype and mobile phones.  And it makes me realize that hardship is a wholly inaccurate and very relative term.   What B and C and I are facing will be different, definitely, but hardship? “Severe suffering and privation”? No. It will not be that.

And so, when I look out my window at the streets of Arlington, and I’m homesick for the streets of Charlotte, I try and picture the streets of Arkona, with grey skies and lots of snow, and I remember how lucky I am, and, as well, how thankful I am that my mother (and Dad) braved the view (or lack thereof), the snow, the homesickness and sadness they felt, in order to give our family the amazing life we’ve had.  I hope one day C feels the same way.

Rekindling

The summers I spent at camp were spent sleeping in tents in the woods, not, as seems to be the norm today, in cabins.  The younger kids were grouped together, but as we got older we became more and more isolated until, as CIT’s (counselors in training), we found our tents a good distance from the main lodge and all the other campers.

We would often have campfires in our isolated little area and sit around until the fire died down and the embers glowed, but barely cast any light.  We would lie in the dark and talk and watch the stars above us.  Inevitably though (we were teenage girls after all) there were nights when some topic or other jump started our desire to be fully awake again and we would bank the fire and do our best to rekindle it so we could get back in its warmth and light.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that rekindling lately.  The isolation and stir-craziness I sometimes feel being in our apartment pretty much all the time (living and working) has prompted me to get out when I can to do lunch with old friends who, at some point or another, have found their way to D.C.

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Love reconnecting with old friends – 10 years later (hello 1994!)

A couple of weeks ago, I went to lunch with two of those friends and we had such a lovely time that one of them promptly invited us both (and our “entourages” (B & C for me)) to dinner at her house with her family.  As we drove home that night it felt like that rekindling of the warmth and light from a fire and I wondered how I had managed to let these people get away from me and fade into soft glows over the years.  I am feeling a tremendous sense of loss for something that I haven’t had for about 10 years (the number of years since these people left Charlotte).  These are fabulous, interesting people who I can talk easily with, who I share some history with, who are, despite our lack of contact for many years, dear to me.  And now, just as I am rekindling them and our friendship I am realizing that I’m going to leave.  Suddenly, despite our desire to get on our way, 9 months doesn’t seem like long enough to be in this city.  It doesn’t seem like long enough to bank these fires and get them roaring again.

Add to this the (almost) equally strong desire to build up the new friendships we have made through B’s A-100 class and our calendars don’t seem nearly large or open enough.  Now that B is in language training (in a class of 3 people instead of a class of 84) there are not as many opportunities to hang out with all these new fascinating people who are also contemplating their new lives in the FS – and some of whom are only weeks, not months, away from moving to their first posts (one person in B’s class has already left!)  So we find ourselves juggling the rekindling of past friendships with the building of new friendships – and, while I recognize that it’s a good problem to have, it is, nevertheless, a problem.  Perhaps I should go back to my teenage days of believing that a good conversation with my friends lying under the stars was worth the sacrifice of a good night’s rest, and hope that once we get to Kinshasa we’ll have plenty of time to catch up on our sleep.

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Trials

I wish I could be that mother with all the patience in the world.  You know the one.  She smiles sweetly while her child screams.  She bends down and looks her child directly in the eye and says, “Honey, it makes you very mad when you can’t have ice cream for breakfast, doesn’t it?”

Her child nods between sobs.

“And you wish you could have ice cream every morning, don’t you?”

“Uh, huh…” (sniffle, sniffle)

“But you understand that we can’t have ice cream for breakfast, don’t you?”

“Yes, Mommy.”

No more crying.

Mommy reaches down, takes her child’s hand and goes on her way.

Here is the equivalent scenario in our life:

“C,” I say, in a low hiss. “Stop crying please.”

Crying gets louder. Wailing starts. “BUT I WANT ICE CREAM FOR BREAKFAST!”

C collapses to the floor clutching her head. Wailing continues.

I stare down at her. My mind goes blank.

“Stop. Crying. NOW.”  My hissing is sounding mildly hysterical now.

No response. Wailing gets louder.

I grab her arm (fighting urge to squeeze). “Let’s go. You are NOT having ice cream for breakfast.”

She prostrates herself.

Everyone in the [insert location here – most likely to be a library, church or nice restaurant] is looking at us.

“I’m going to count to three,” I say. “And when I get to three so help me…I’m going to…”  DEEP BREATH.

“You will lose [insert alleged punishment].”

This just makes things worse as now she is not getting ice cream for breakfast and is about to lose something else she wants. Wailing reaches a crescendo.

I grab her bodily and walk out. Echo of wailing remains behind us. Disapproving eyes follow us.

This is usually when I remember something I read about getting down on her level.

“C,” I say. “You are being mean. I don’t like you when you are like this.” (yes, I have now resorted to being a 3 year old as well.)

Sigh.

Yup, not mother of the year.  Patience is not my virtue.

It is in these moments when I wonder how I will do this in Africa, or China, or Mexico.

My Pinterest page is FULL of *ideas* for fun and educational things to do with kids – my kid in particular, but really, do I have the patience to do these things? To spend my days overseas making “Frozen Slime“? I truthfully don’t know.

Days like today, spent trekking across D.C. on the Metro from brunch with friends, to the American Girl store birthday party of my niece L, and back home (33 Metro stops in total), losing patience slowly, but surely, all day with C’s whining, not listening, demanding little self.  Feeling even worse by virtue of the fact that I heard this morning of a young mother in Charlotte who, along with her 3 year old, were killed last week literally just sitting at a stop sign.  Wondering why it is I can’t revel even in the annoyances of my lovely, fabulous, beautiful, brilliant, LIVE child.

I KNOW – deep in my heart and with no hesitation – just how incredibly lucky I was today to eat a wonderful meal with friends and see my niece’s joy as she picked out her new doll, and to do all of that with C by my side, but sometimes the knowing isn’t enough to keep the edge of annoyance out of my voice. I wish it was.

These, clearly, will be the trials of my future.  And these are the trials I need to win more than any that have come before.

Brunch without toys? iPad to the rescue!

Brunch without toys? iPad to the rescue!

Amazing, delicious brunch!

Amazing, delicious brunch!

L & C - American Girl heaven

L & C – American Girl heaven

I wish…

In between dog parks and carousels, C and I have been traveling Arlington and its environs visiting Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Whole Foods etc…to stock up on things for the apartment.  In the course of doing this I have mentally started a list of “I wish we had…” related to our pack out.  So here, in no particular order, in case you ever have to packout yourselves, are my current wish list:*  (* subject to change on a moment to moment basis)

  • I wish I’d brought a queen sized mattress pad, sheets, our own pillows and our duvet.  It’s been many years since I lived in corporate housing as a law student and in those days the digs seemed awesome and palatial.  Twenty odd years later the digs seem a bit dirty and less awesome (but I’m not complaining given that they are free digs!).  It would be nice (and feel slightly less yucky) to be sleeping on our own sheets.   Luckily I did bring C’s sheets, duvet, pillow and lots of things to remind her of home, so it is less yucky in her room.
    C's bed. More like home.

    C’s bed. More like home.

  • I wish I’d brought tupperware.  Not a ton of it, but the corporate housing provided tupperware consists of two small pieces.  That is not going to cut it at our house.
  • I wish I’d brought more art/photographs – nothing makes an apartment a home more than your own photos and artwork.  I brought a few things, but I wish I’d brought more.
  • I wish I’d brought a couple of bowls.  I ended up buying two nice big deep cereal-type bowls from BB&B today (for $1.98 each on clearance, so I’m not feeling too upset, but everything you buy that you can picture in a box somewhere in Hagerstown, MD is annoying…).  The bowls provided are these incredibly shallow, rimmed bowls.  The kind I picture Lady Edith using to eat her 4 spoonfuls of soup at Downton Abbey during a 15 course meal.  Let’s just say, in 2014 when the meal is ALL supposed to fit in one bowl, these bowls are not cutting it.
  • I wish I’d saved some more of the “staples” that I threw away.  I have to tell you I don’t need half the clothes or office supplies I brought, but the leftover bottle of olive oil would have been a welcome sight yesterday.
  • I wish I’d brought a bookcase.  Just a little one – the one from C’s room would have done nicely.  There is nowhere to put books in the apartment.  We didn’t bring a ton of books, but we brought some AND I’m supposed to be working from here, so my rule books (the books I basically live by as a litigator), my dictionary, my binders for my cases etc…, are all under the desk.  Not ideal.  We’ll no doubt be making a trip to IKEA for that, but again, see note above about having to annoyingly buy things you already own.
  • I wish I’d brought more skirt hangers – if you ever move into corporate housing bring hangers! Particularly any “speciality” hangers.  My skirts are all doubled up right now, but I suspect ultimately I’ll be buying some more of these hangers while picturing the ones we left behind in my head.
  • I wish I’d brought a couple of our own throw pillows.  See bullet number one about kind of yucky linens and switch to pillows on the couch.
    Corporate housing pillows. Meh.

    Corporate housing pillows. Meh.

    By the way, B’s first couple of days went really well – he came home with a ridiculously detailed schedule yesterday so that makes my control/detail oriented mind happy.  Somehow he managed to accept the job of chairing his class “Folly” skit (that is put on during the “offsite” somewhere in PA).  It’s kind of bizarre to watch him get comfortable in this new life, but it’s kind of cool too.

    And in case you care, here are a few other pictures of our new home.  IMG_0606 IMG_0607 IMG_0608 IMG_0609 IMG_0611 IMG_0612 IMG_0613

Time is inexorable

Twenty (or so) years ago, my journalism professor Wiley Hilburn wrote “TIME IS INEXORABLE” in the margin of a piece I wrote for my weekly column as the editor of our college newspaper. The column was my last before graduation. In it I talked about my attempts to freeze moments of my last days on campus in my memory.  Now, Mr. Hilburn’s words keep floating to the surface of my brain. I thought I had TONS of time to pack, purge, go to lunch, go to dinner and generally be ready to move. Suddenly all the time I thought I had seems to have caught up with me.

I no longer have open days for lunches, evenings for dinners, or afternoons for playdates.  The days and nights are filled. All the food in my freezer will not get eaten and I have to resign myself to that fact.  I have five more outfits I need for work in Charlotte. I have five more nights in my dear house.

What happened to all the TIME I thought I had!?

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Does this look like the desk of a girl who has 5 days left in this office?

Mr. Hilburn was right about time.  It is inexorable.  It moves without stopping. No amount of wishing or hoping or ignoring (I’m quite expert at that) will stop it.  I’m just running trying to catch up with it. Like the quintessential movie character running, hand outstretched, to catch the last handle on the train caboose before it chugs off into the distance without me.

And yet…what am I doing now.  Writing, certainly, but more importantly, watching the Property Brothers.  See what I said about ignoring…

They moved our Packout date to Aug. 18 (yes, that is Monday) so we have one less day for packing, sorting, purging.  Kindly the USG will pay for us to stay for up to 10 days in a hotel, so we had a hotel in Charlotte booked for the 19th-22nd – somewhere within walking distance to both my office and C’s daycare.  But now we need a room on the 18th too and, wouldn’t you know it, the hotel hasn’t got a single room open for Monday night (bizarre, right?).  So we can either move hotels which, needless to say is not my first choice, or spend the night in C’s room using the blow up bed and her trundle (it is built-in, so it is staying).

I’m leaning toward “camping” in C’s room.  After all, we’re going on an adventure – why shouldn’t it start in our own home?

Controlling the uncontrollable

I’m beginning to feel that my life as the mother of a three year old is going to be good preparation for my new life as a “trailing spouse.”

Before C, at least before my adventures in pregnancy, I prided myself on my control of most situations.  I could plan for almost every eventuality, every possible outcome – whether of a case, a relationship, or a day.  I could make lists, make plans, direct the other attorneys and staff I worked with, and generally maintain physical, emotional and organizational control over my work and my life.

Then came pregnancy and, later, C.  And my control disappeared along with my waistline.  I’d like to think the waistline is generally back, but somehow the control seems to have been permanently displaced.

This morning C refused to get out of bed until I agreed that she could wear a tutu and crocs to have breakfast.

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I tried to reason with her.

“We need to get dressed in clothes we can wear to school,” I cajoled.

“No.”

“You won’t be able to play in the playground if you wear this,” I told her.

“I don’t want to play in the playground,” was her answer.

I’m sure a better Mummy than me could have sweetly convinced her to put on her (appropriate for school) clothes, eat her breakfast, wear her socks, and leave the house without a doll, three princesses, a light up ball, her umbrella and a purse, but not me.  Because I cannot “control” or “manage” or “organize” her; she is three.

And it turns out, while I can do a lot of planning, I cannot control much about what my life will look like in the next few months – and maybe even for the foreseeable future.

Self-Control-alexmillos

It seems crazy to me that I have no idea where I might be living next year. What happened to the “me” that needed to know what was happening, where I’d be, and what I’d be doing every day? I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and to find myself totally freaking out, but so far that has not happened.

I have started to lose a bit of emotional control – it started in earnest tonight.  I went to workout and when I arrived home some of our best friends in Charlotte were just leaving our house, a leather chair we put on our “sell/give” list in the back of their car.  C and their son, W, were kicking a soccer ball back and forth, their baby E was playing on C’s little push car.  It was such a scene of contentment and friendship. My stomach gave a little twist as I got out of my car and walked toward them all, thinking how much I wanted to preserve the little scene, but knowing I couldn’t.

W & C - Friends forever...

W & C – Friends from the beginning…

Then, later, as I was putting C to bed she went to her basket of stuffed animals and said “Where is my monkey with the tail on it? And the daddy monkey?”  The twist intensified. I donated those monkeys last weekend.  I know she doesn’t need three stuffed monkeys (I kept Curious George), but her question just left an ache in my chest thinking of those lost monkeys and how much she loved making them a “Mommy” monkey, a “Daddy” monkey and a Baby George monkey.

And finally, as she was falling asleep, giving me a hug and playing with my hair, she said “I didn’t want W to take my big chair.”

“But W will look after the chair and we can come back and visit it, won’t that be fun?”

“Is W coming to Washington, Mummy?”

“No, sweetie,” I told her.  “W is staying here in Charlotte to look after our chair.  But we’ll visit him, and maybe he can visit us.”

She said “Ok” but I know she doesn’t understand.

I understand though.  I know that how often we might, or might not, visit is out of our control and there is nothing I can do about that.