Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Beginning

The end of a year is always a time for reflection, but the end of this year seems extra weighty to me, because of all the change that has occurred. My little family has been living in a hotel or staying at the homes of family since December 10, and it ends tomorrow. We will begin the new year in a new place that will be our home for the next two years.

We drove here. We've been driving for days, passing through thirteen states: Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico (and then Texas again, but we don't get to count it twice).

There was a lot of beauty. A lot of busy cities, full of hustle and bustle, brimming with life and energy from the people filling them. A lot of empty, spacious land, full possibilities and untamed nature, brimming with life and energy from the plants filling it. (And a lot of dry riverbeds. Coming from a part of the United States with humidity and always plenty of rain, the dry riverbeds were an unusual sight.)

I have now seen a lot of cows. I have seen cows my whole life, but never before that many at a time. I had no idea how large cattle ranches could be.

I was also very impressed by the size of tumbleweed, and that it is a real thing that still happens, not just what rolls through town in Western movies and cartoons. Totally still exists.

I had never witnessed in such magnitude how beautiful sun rays piercing through a cloudy sky could be. Patches of sunlight—like patches of hope penetrating the gray depression.

Trains are still alive and well. Definitely still running and going places. The kids had lots of trains to point out.

There is a comforting, reliable feeling in finding chain restaurants that serve menus on which you already know which dishes you like. But there is a kind of exciting feeling, almost like you're eavesdropping the whole time, about eating in a town with a population smaller than your high school, at a diner with a dining room smaller than my townhouse's living room, where none of the chairs at your table match, but full of good cheer and regulars and delicious food.

I am particularly grateful to all the people who still have their Christmas lights out and turned on. That added a bit of cheer for my children to see out their windows.

That many hours in a car made me a bit reflective. I wondered about lots of random, ridiculous things. (Are hamburgers only made from female cows? Do we eat steers and bulls when their usefulness is done??) I also created my first bucket list. It's in the car, but maybe I'll share it on here sometime.

At one point, I turned to Jeffrey and said, "Doesn't this feel like a real beginning? Like the start of the rest of our lives? Like everything else was just leading up to this, and we didn't even know it, because we didn't know we would end up here? I know we could have said that going to college or getting married or having children were new beginnings (and they were), but I always knew I would go to college and I always hoped I would get married and have children. This is really, really the unknown and it is going to last the next two decades. We could be completely different people if we want."

I have never had to apologize to anyone in Juarez. They don't know my flaws. How I sometimes speak before I think. How sometimes my words are intentionally too biting, too wounding. How I can lose my patience. I have a clean slate to try and be a better Mimi.

I am looking forward to that opportunity.

But I miss my old friends from the different places I've lived and loved: Brazil, Indiana, Utah, Ohio, and Virginia. Those friends already know my flaws and have forgiven me for them and have loved me in spite of them. They're used to my awkward, but sincere, apologies and spend time with me anyway. They know my many "conversation disclaimers" are coming. They already know how I am a very loyal, loving, and nonjudgemental friend. They already know me.

So, maybe I won't change too much.

Just a bit.

Just to get better.

This song is stuck in my head right now. Do you remember it? "Make new friends, but keep the old. Some are silver, and the others gold. The circle is round and never ends; that's how long I want to be your friend."

That is how I am feeling tonight.

I am also thinking of my sister's post from back in May before we knew where our first posting would take us. You can read it here, if you'd like.

Sigh. So many "feels." Wish me luck tomorrow!

And, let me just say in a lighter note, that not all hotels are created equally—even in the same chain.

And, somewhat selfishly, one other reason why I am really glad to be here is because I am incredibly drained from saying goodbye to beloved friends and family. And I know people who I befriend will leave me while I stay in Juarez, but I hope I have at least a little break from saying goodbye. It is very, very hard.

We spent the week of Christmas at my beautiful sister's house.
We just barely missed seeing Hazel's first steps!

Most amazing Christmas present!
My sister made a quilt out of my childhood. It contains shirts from my sports, Church events, and activities, and from the places I've lived: New York, Michigan, Brazil, and Indiana. It is so snuggly and perfect. I've loved  wrapping myself up in it during this road trip.

All the cousins, except for Heather and Hazel.
(I'll be posting more pictures on Facebook.)

Waffles like this are one of the reasons why I have begun to love Texas.

Friday, December 19, 2014


This week, I have been experiencing what some call "all the feels." Emotions everywhere. Why? Well, because this finally happened.

I have been attempting to "leave well" and follow some of the tips I read in this great article back in June when leaving still seemed so far away. (Here is a link to the article, if you're curious; it's fantastic.)

Does moving ever get easier? I've tried to let people know how much they have meant to me. I have thrown three good-bye parties (and a baby shower!) in the past four weeks. I have written cards and notes expressing my appreciation. I made time in my super busy moving schedule to eat dinner and meet for lunch with friends. And I've given a lot of hugs.

I still feel sad for me and guilty for others. I remember when we were living in Cincinnati, and it was prior to that fateful day in October 2012 when Jeff received that email from LinkedIn announcing openings in the Foreign Service. It was back when I still thought I would live, raise my children, and die in Cincinnati. I remember when my best friend moved, and I was the one who remained. I actually dealt with a type of separation or loss depression. Nothing medication worthy, but it affected my emotions. Every time I drove past where I would have turned to go to her house, or every time I wanted to stop by to have our kids play together while we chatted about everything, or every time I turned around at play group and she wasn't there, or every time I looked over my shoulder at Zumba and she wasn't there, or every time I read an interesting article about some foreign country and she wasn't there to share it with. She wasn't there. And I still was. That is a specific kind of pain that is not really alleviated by keeping in touch and writing letters.

And now I'm creating that same kind of pain for friends here. I'm leaving a Mimi-sized hole in their lives, just like she left an Amy-sized hole in mine.

It is hard to be the person left behind; however, I don't regret any of the friendships I have made here. Those relationships have enriched my life, made me a better person, and helped me grow.

I have moved a lot in my life, but this move is different in a few ways. First, obviously, because I'm moving to a different country. But second, also, because Jill is old enough to actually realize what is happening. Daniel kind of does, and I think he will miss some of his buddies, but he's three (almost four!). He'll get over it pretty quickly when he makes new buddies.

And Jill will make new buddies too, but she really knows what leaving means now. And it is sad to think about how she barely remembers her good friends from Cincinnati, and soon the friends that are so important to her here will be barely remembered.

Jill hasn't complained or expressed verbally that she is upset, but she's had a pretty short fuse recently and is very tired and emotional at the end of school these days. Poor girl. She has needed extra grace.

Alice has been a champ—napping at the hotel for me, napping at friends' house, just going along with the flow and playing. I'm super grateful for that. Now if only she would stop making so many messes. Then she would be the easiest toddler ever. That's too much to ask for though, I'm sure.

I'll probably think of more reasons I love Virginia after I am gone, but I wanted to list some now on my last day here.

I have loved being so close to Washington DC and all of the national monuments. Likewise, I have loved learning some of the American history that occurred in this area.

I have loved my townhouse. My dear tall, skinny house. You were perfect for us these past two years.

I have loved my neighborhood: the pools, the sidewalks, the parks. It has been great to be able to walk to the shopping plaza that had so many convenient stores: a grocery store, a Goodwill, a pharmacy, countless restaurants, a McDonald's, a Tuesday Morning, a Gold's Gym, a UPS store, a tailor, a dry cleaner, a car wash, a gas station, and so much more. And my bank right across the street! It was just a fabulous location.

I have loved Jill's school. I was incredibly nervous to have Jill leave me and spend all day with strange adults who I didn't know, but it has been a fantastic experience. Jill's teacher was amazing, and the school was just fantastic. I loved that they did a kindergarten summer program, so Jill had two weeks of half days to acclimate to school life, so when she started in the fall, she wasn't as lost in the sea of over 1,000 students they have there. I love that instead of just learning about Christmas, this unit she has been studying Christmas, Kwanzaa, Eid al-Fitr, Diwali, and Hanukkah. I loved that her closest friends at school are of Philippine, Indian, and Afghan backgrounds.

I have loved the spring time with the numerous, and varied, flowering trees.

I have loved our ward (Mormon congregation) here who welcomed us with open arms and treated us like family. They have been so helpful with this move and so kind during all of our time here.

I have loved and been very grateful for friends who accepted me and loved me.

Fairfax County, Virginia—you've been wonderful.

Thank you.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Violent tendencies

Here's what my kids have been saying recently.

Jill: "Which way did it tell you to drive?"
Me: "It told me turn right. . . . Do you know which way is right?"
Jill points to the right.
Me: "Wow! I'm impressed. I didn't know you had learned that."
Jill: "Well, I am right handed, so right is the hand that I write with."
Danny: "I am . . . I am TWO handed."

I finished making lunch, and Daniel came down the stairs to eat with me. As he descended, he apparently pondered life and his relationships.
Daniel: "Mom . . . if I died . . . Michael would be sad."
Me, flabbergasted: "Yes, he would." (I should have said something else like "and so would I," or "so would a lot of people," or "are you making any plans?," but I was really too surprised to continue. And it was kind of funny, too, that he picked out his friend Michael like that.)

Jill, yelling down the stairs "Mom! Danny hit me!"
Me: "Well, did you tell him you didn't like it?"
And at the same time as I said that, Jeff: "Did you hit him back?"
Jill: "Daddy! I can't hit Danny! I want Santa to give me presents for Christmas."
Me: "Jeff! Don't tell her to hit him back!"
Jeff: "Maybe it will teach him that it isn't very much fun to be hit."
Me: "We turn the other cheek in this household!"
Some time passes.
Jill: "Wait, is Danny going to get presents from Santa? Because he's been naughty."

What I have taught Jill about what to do if another kid physically hurts her:
After being hit once: Tell the child she doesn't like it and ask the child to stop.
After being hit again: Walk away and tell an adult.
If the child follows you: Run away and tell an adult.
If the child follows you and hits you again: Hit the child hard, run away, and tell an adult.

Daniel hasn't really been physically hurt by another child ever since Jill outgrew her biting stage. (I'm so glad she outgrew that!!) With him, I'm working on him not being the one hurting other kids, and all we've covered so far is to use our words. Talk—instead of push. Talk—instead of kick. Talk—instead of hit. And always—Be Patient! We are having limited success, but I'm hopeful for the future. He's a good kid at the core.

It reminds me of what a violent child I was. I used to hit, punch, and kick other children. I used to also bang my head on the wall or floor. I have no idea why I had so much violence pent up in me. (I'm so sweet now!) I don't remember ever wanting to actually hurt anyone, and I was not personally ever hurt by others, so I don't know where it came from. I just seemed to be disconnected from the reality that others didn't like it or that it hurt them.

That's why I ask my children to always talk about it first, because I wonder if there are other kids out there like me who don't realize it isn't socially acceptable. Although I'm sure my mom told me not to do it, but we all know kids are good at ignoring their moms. (Sigh.)

What finally got through to me was one of my best friends coming up to me in fourth grade and saying, "You know, Mimi, we don't really like it when you kick us."

I was dumbfounded.

Life-changing moment right there.

Sometimes I wonder where I would have ended up if my friends hadn't put up with me and if that lone kind friend hadn't said anything.

Anyway. Random trip down to childhood is over!

Life is moving on for us here! With less than two weeks to go, I really feel like the clock is ticking and yet there is so little we can do for ourselves. We've shredded a lot of papers. We have sold our chairs, our couches, our kitchen table and chairs, our television, and our bedroom set. So the house is getting a little bare. I am looking forward to moving into the hotel this week, and I am grateful that we were able to sell those items instead of giving them away. Alice was pretty confused and upset by watching someone walk away with our television. The kids seem to find it funny to have such an empty house, and they have been enjoying riding their bikes through the kitchen, dining room, and living room.

Oh, and since the last time I posted, I learned that we will welcome a boy into our home this spring—Gordon Philip Collett! Yay!

We celebrated Thanksgiving in Cincinnati with Jeff's family. All of his brothers were able to be there, so it was pretty special to spend time with them that weekend. My children were delighted to have so many adults around to give them attention. Although Jill did ask where her cousins were a few times. (I don't think she realizes that once she does have Collett cousins, they will be considerably younger than her. She'll become the babysitter instead of gaining playmates.)

And, because it's December, here's a little taste of Christmas. :)
If you compare, you can see that both Jill and Alice freaked out their second year, 
but Daniel has been a champ through them all.