Friday, July 29, 2011

Someone else is driving my car...

Belle, Katie & Grandpa Chuck
Well, technically, it is no longer my car. I truly loved that car (and it is odd because I am so not a person who gets attached to things - a byproduct of moving so much as a child).  I did not cry when we sold the house we lived in for ten years, the first home my daughter ever knew, but I cried over my car.

The sunset the night of our family party.

Tonight, I read another chapter of A Secret Garden to Belle. We'll get to read one more chapter before I leave (Chapter 24: Let Them Laugh), because tomorrow she leaves for a four day, three night camp adventure with three of her closest friends from school and her Girl Scout troop. We'll pick her up on the 2nd, and that night, I'll get to read to her one more time.  I wonder if I'll be able to read to her from Abu Dhabi. I won't be able to read to her on the 3rd because my plane will be in the air while she is going to bed.  I might have to get a second copy so Rob will read it with her.  These are the things I am thinking about tonight after watching her pack her camping bags and methodically check off each item on the list. She's a good packer.

Liz, Ashleigh & me

Erica, Sammy & Belle
I finished up the young writers' writing camp I helped with today, and Belle finished her last round of swim lessons.  My stepmother-in-law called last night and invited us over for dinner tomorrow because she said she's going to miss me and wants to make sure she gets to see me one more time before I go. It made me tear up a bit because I truly adore her and it is an honor to know it is reciprocal.  We finished up getting the passport photo copies I need for all the various things in the UAE, and had a quick visit with our friends Tonya & Rochelle.

Tomorrow, I bring Belle to camp with the other moms, and Rob & I'll empty the storage unit. Tonight, I'm going to resist staying up late just to watch Belle sleep.   Maybe I'll just stare at this picture instead:
Belle at my early birthday dinner

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Long Goodbye

The last week has been a busy one of goodbyes and swim lessons. Belle is making wonderful progress and we practiced for quite a bit yesterday at Echo Lake.  On Monday afternoon, I had a planning session for the last writing camp next week with my friend, Jen, and then that night, I went with my friend Ashleigh to see the final installment on the Harry Potter films, and now I must wait impatiently for J.K. Rowling to make the series available as an e-book since I recently sold my paper set (it is coming out in October). On Tuesday, we attended a Miranda Cosgrove concert at Meadowbrook with a bunch of Belle's little friends. On Wednesday, we took the day to pack and clean. Thursday evening I went out to dinner with some of my lady friends, and then we walked around town and stopped for pictures with Pollyanna (her creator was from Littleton).

We just came home from our family farewell party, which was lovely and sad.  The feelings and tidings were mixed, but by now most everyone is excited for us and our adventure and I truly hope some of them make it out to visit us.  I know it would mean a lot to Rob.  Belle is having her last sleepover with her best friend since birth, Katie.  That is sad too, because I've watched Katie grow up and now I feel like I'm going to miss big pieces of her life, not to mention how Belle feels.  I'll post photos of this final visit later, but for now, I'm going to go rest a bit for tomorrow's church family farewells.

A rare family photo
10 days left...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Panic mode...

Today, I received my e-ticket and visa. Suddenly, I have a departure date, and a timeline when things MUST be done by.  And after spending way too many hours refreshing my email box and lurking (and being envious of those who received theirs first) on Facebook to stay updated with all my UAE group people, I am now in possession of the golden ticket.

Turns out the ticket creates more questions and concerns: like what do I do with the fact that my husband & daughter are included & our plans were for them to come later? There is no way I've saved enough money.   We've just barely started work on selling my car... What am I going to do about calling home? How am I going to handle being apart from my daughter for 4-6 weeks (I've never been separated from her for that long)? What are they going to eat? What was I thinking signing Belle up for Girl Scout camp right when I was leaving? How am I going to handle spending my birthday and anniversary across the world from the people I am closest too? And, seriously, how is it possible that I will travel across the Atlantic and the entire continent of Africa - into Asia, when I haven't even crossed the Mississippi?
The answer, of course, is what will be, will be.  It will be okay, eventually. I will sleep again.  I will rediscover my sense of humor and balance because after all, tomorrow is a new day and like this journey - it is one step at a time. Guess I'm going to have to try to cross that Mississippi next summer.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Deep fried hot dogs and other wonders...

Moving across the world is hard, and right now the hardest part is balancing all the things we have to do, with the things we want to do, and the things we feel we should do.... Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Our schedule has been crazy, and yet, I've been able to do a lot of waiting (im)patiently for more information about my departure.  I am finally out of my splint and well on the way to recovery.  I am able to do all the normal summer activities I love without being crazy....

On Thursday, we went out to dinner with some of the New England teachers traveling to the UAE. It was a HUGE relief to finally meet some of the people going with us and to find out how nice everyone is.  These three ladies were just a few of the people who took a night out to bond over Italian food.

We stayed over at Liz & Brett's and were able to spend some quality time with Liz and Charlie (Brett had to leave for a frisbee tournament), and even Erica came over for lunch on Friday. Then it was off to Manchester for Stephanie & Sam's rehearsal and dinner at KC's Rib Shack, where the food is "healthy" they deep fry hot dogs (we learned this because of Belle's order) - translation: DELICIOUS!

And in case you were wondering what a deep fried hot dog looks like, here is a picture of her dinner:
They call them diamondbacks because of the way they slice them before frying. 

We managed to avoid most of the race traffic by sticking to back roads. On Saturday morning, we went and painted pottery at a local paint-your-own place and then raced back to Liz's to prep for the wedding. Thank heavens for all the time Liz spent in the bathroom playing with make up and hair in high school because she certainly has a second calling as a beautician. I wonder if Brett knows how lucky he is to have married someone who can do as many things as she can? I mean, look how precious this photo is:

The ceremony was beautiful - with great lighting - everything was backlit because of the sun's location in the sky.  Belle did a great job in her third outing as a flowergirl, and Steph & Sam looked very happy as they celebrated their union. Steph made the cake & cupcakes, and all the bridal party headpieces.  She & Sam also made all the favors: pieces of pottery- I ended up with a lovely blue, tulip shaped glass - which were used as our water glasses and gave each table a unique & colorful touch. 

Belle just returned from her friend, Ari's birthday party, and now I think we might all take a nap after running around for the last four days - if not, we're definitely going to bed early. Tomorrow she starts a two-week cycle of swim lessons, and I'm off to watch the finale of Harry Potter with my pal, Ashleigh.  Then we're off to a Miranda Cosgrove (iCarly) concert on Tuesday evening, and have a family get together on Saturday. I have a writing camp meeting Monday at lunch time, and I'm sure there are other things that I've forgotten occurring this week as well. But soon enough, I'll have a 14 hour plane ride to catch up on sleep.

The first LT's (licensed teachers) are getting their e-tickets with scheduled departures of August 3 & 4. So far, I am not one of them, but it does mean I'll know soon (or go crazy waiting).  Keep your fingers crossed that I get my golden ticket sooner rather than later.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bye, bunny....

Last night, Belle and one of her best friends since kindergarten celebrated a huge milestone: Mackenzie spent the entire night! We celebrated with homemade chocolate chip Belgian waffles for breakfast.  Then they spent the rest of the morning playing Barbies on the front porch until heading to Mackenzie's family's camp. 

While Belle was enjoying some quality time with her pal, Rob was preparing our family pet for his new home. He met his adopting family on Thursday, and today, they came and picked him up.  He was hands down the easiest pet we've ever had and we will miss our cuddle bunny.  It does help that he is going to a home where he will get lots of attention and love. But I don't think anyone else but Belle would worry about him having special holiday hats. 

I've packed one of my suitcases and we're going to meet some of the fellow UAE teachers from New England this week.  I guess the next step is selling my car.  Anyone interested in giving this 2004 Malibu Maxx a good home?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Weighing the world...

Yesterday, I ordered the luggage scale that will determine what actually goes into our suitcases and thus, what comes with us on our new adventure.  I'm nervous because like other measurements, my perception of weight is not accurate... I learned this the hard way when I thought I was carrying a 40 lb monitor to the recycling station scale & it turned out to weigh 65 lbs... Yeah, I'm good with measurements too. Thank goodness I teach English & not math, and just wait until I have to learn the metric system.

At the same time as I struggled with things - I have learned of friends struggling with more difficult problems, medical, emotional, etc. and then I read a fellow LT's (licensed teacher heading to the UAE) blog post and her reflections on "The Things They Carried."  I've read O'Brien's book several times, and taught it a few as well.  "They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried." Each time, I've been struck by the importance of the intangibles that are carried within us, the visible and the invisible.  The last few days, the weight of this has settled around me. Today, I was asked, once again, if it was difficult to let go of the things that I have surrounded my life with, and it was easy to say, no.  But there are some things I will not and am unable to let go. Many of these things are intangible and most of these, thank goodness, are things that fill me with joy, but I also carry some things that create darkness and heartbreak, and yes, even pain. Some things are easier to carry than others...

O'Brien later says, "And in the end, of course, a true war story is never about war. It's about sunlight. It's about the special way that dawn spreads out on a river when you know you must cross the river and march into the mountains and do things you are afraid to do. It's about love and memory. It's about sorrow. It's about sisters who never write back and people who never listen." This is true of life as well.  It is hard when the darkness settles to think beyond, to feel it will ever end, but it is not the darkness that life is about.  Life is about those moments that we cherish, the moments that we hold close to our hearts and give us strength to endure and overcome.  Today, I was reminded of this by talking to people who have faced incredible hardships, and continue to share and spread joy; by watching my daughter and her friends splash in a glistening lake; talking to mothers who share the understanding that children are treasures; a woman who recognizes me because she adored my brother in high school - when he was perhaps his most trouble; and the realization that my luggage scale will only be weighing a small piece of what will be coming with me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Independence Day and other things...

I finally fulfilled the birthday promise to my friend Erica and we hiked the Zealand Falls trail.  Belle brought along her friend Mackenzie and Erica, of course, brought Sammy.  It was a beautiful day for a hike and even better - no snake sightings!

We had a short visit with my pal Ashleigh where I made her make brownies (delicious) - I have mentioned that I'm a rotten friend, right?, followed by a mad rush visit to Massachusetts to visit Marc & Mary Esther.  Note to self (and to the rest of the world) - DO NOT attempt to leave Massachusetts heading north on a holiday weekend.  It took over two hours to reach the tolls just past Manchester from the Boston area.  Yeah. 

Belle and I went to Good Harbor with Marc & Mary Esther for a beach day.  I couldn't do a whole lot of swimming because my wrist is still healing and I've been told by my doctor that I can swim with my brace on, but do not want to chance messing up my recovery.  Belle searched for seashells, we found a couple baby horseshoe crabs, she swam a bit (YEAH!), and even boogie boarded. (Yes, I am jealous that my daughter was able to swim and boogie board.)  When we got back to Marc & Mary Esther's, Rob joined us and helped grill up a steak dinner. Then we had the super fun drive home the next day.  

On Saturday, we joined some of our friends in celebrating Rich's birthday.  The food was incredible, but the company was even better.  It was amazing to look around the table and realize that we've literally watched the young men (our friends' sons) grow up, and it made me think about how much we'll miss of the younger boys while we are away. 
For the holiday, we drove down to Woodsville for the annual parade. Rob and I have been attending this parade together for the last 16 years, and it was bittersweet when our friend John mentioned next year's - because it is unlikely that I will be back in time for it (although Rob & Belle might be).  We've learned over the years how to prepare for the event, so we brought chips & salsa and watermelon. Our friend Kathy provided the sunscreen, and the kids all had their candy bags.  Everyone brought coolers filled with cold drinks. Belle finally had enough confidence to run out and compete for the candy without relying on the boys to supplement her catch. 
It is kind of nice to know that we only have Belle's alteration appointment for Stephanie & Sam's upcoming nuptials and a trip to the post office planned for this week. I'm sure we will fill it somehow.