Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hello, Goodbye; or, Ch-ch-changes

Transience is a normal part of life living in a military community.

Just because it's reality doesn't make it any easier.

There are those friends you meet from the neighborhood, from work, parents of your kids, coworkers of your spouse, etc. who, like everyone else here, you run into every where you go.

In the states, I tried to work in communities away from where I lived. I've spoken many times before about the somewhat claustrophobic nature of living in a tiny community where you see EVERYBODY, EVERYWHERE you go. People here call it "living in a fishbowl," and at times, it really does grind you down.

But here's the flip side to that: you run into people who are your acquaintances, and soon find yourself at the same places with them over and over again. Before you know it, you are invited to birthday parties, days at the beach, BBQs, kids' birthday parties, card games, boat trips on the bay, etc.

For someone who doesn't always like to get out of her comfort zone much to meet friends, it's been nice for me.

Some mementos from Sunday morning mimosas with friends at Windmill Beach.
Invite me for mimosas, and I'll make you one, too. :) 
My kids have both had to say goodbye to friends recently, and in a few cases, because of the flight schedule (only Fridays and every other Tuesday), they were not able to leave school to go to Ferry Landing for a GTMO-style farewell.

There is a good chance that I will lose several colleagues who have become my friends during the last 2 years, as well.

This means the cycle of finding new friends, for both myself and my kids, will start all over again.

I have always had social anxiety issues. I hate crowds. I am the world's worst hostess---if I have never invited you over for dinner, please, please understand----it's because the whole concept gives me a panic attack. I don't throw big parties for my kids, because I don't want to deal with lots of kids and parents (or even worse, kids and parents who don't bother to show up). I know that sounds selfish, but I think my kids understand. I hate going to events where I don't know people. Eating alone in a restaurant doesn't bother me; going to a large party where I don't know many people gives me a gigantic case of the the butterflies.

For me, there is also the quandary of being raised as a nester---my parents live in the same house that we moved to when I was five years old---and desiring to be a wanderer. It's not to say that my parents are not very well-traveled---they've been to several countries and are currently planning their next big adventure to the U.K.---and there is a real comfort in having a place to always go back to. I've been thinking about this a lot recently as my oldest has only a couple years of high school left . Where will he end up for college? Will we be on the other side of the world? His little brother recently told me that he doesn't want his big brother to ever leave. When you have kids eight years apart, the reality is he will also get a chance to be an only child at home, even though he will never be an only child.

But with goodbyes comes the excitement of knowing that I will one day have a chance to travel to see friends in different locations. Whether it's a road trip or a major travel ordeal, there is no better feeling than being reunited with a friend you haven't seen in years. There's also the knowledge that we will meet more life-long friends. It's hard to believe that some of the folks here have only been a part of my life for one or two years. In a year from now,  I will be celebrating birthdays and holidays and cookouts with people I haven't even met yet. I will be going to ferry landing and saying goodbye to people I don't even know today. There will be more teary goodbyes, and there will be people to share them that aren't a part of my life right now.

And that, too, is the beauty of living somewhere that is transient.

Sunset across from our house---beautiful, isn't it? 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pineapple Problems; or, Where's My *%&! Mail?

It's amazing how sometimes a seemingly small problem can become SO LARGE, and so fast.

Case in point:

I've posted about the Map of Lost Mail. (Here's a refresher):

Our mail has seen Oman, Italy, Sicily, Spain, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia

Our mail does some great traveling, even while we are living life here in our 45 square mile exclusive gated community.

Mail service seems to have become even more inefficient since we got here. When you only have one small store for everything, you find yourself buying strange and bizarre combinations of products online. Salad dressing and laundry soap? Why not. Moisturizer and socks? Sure. Colored pipe cleaners and 1980s movies? Yes!!

We have a few of those things here, of course. But we don't have the things I want, so online shopping it is.

For the first year or so, mail was routed to a sorting facility in New York and then found its way to our FPO (Fleet Post Office). We cannot get our mail from the post office.

Did you catch that? You cannot pick up your own mail. I know people here don't bat at eye at this, but to me, it's ridiculous. It's OUR mail, but we cannot pick up mail from the US Post Office. Only specific people who have been through training can pick up the mail. The mail then goes to my work and finds its way to our mailbox.

By the way, I don't think most other military bases work this way (at least not the ones where my husband was stationed). As usual, GTMO wins the lottery for the weird and bizarre.

Sometime in the last year our mail started going through Chicago, and that's when the issues seemed to start.

It now takes a month to get a package that used to take 2 weeks. Christmas and birthday presents bought a month in advance didn't make it this year. Also, we waited two months for a part for our Jeep so it would pass inspection, just to find out that somewhere between GTMO and Chicago and who knows where (Oman? Saudi Arabia? Spain?), the part got sent back.

(The part is a windshield wiper motor. Unfortunately the 10 or so day-long GTMO rainy season of sorts hit this past week).

I find myself getting really upset and aggravated over the mail situation. It's hard to explain how this feels to someone who lives where you can go out to an auto store, craft store, grocery store, or even a quick shop on the corner for almost anything you want/need, or can order something online and have it at the door in a few days. I was hoping that living here would help foster patience. Instead of "Less is More" as my mantra, I find myself saying over and over again, "You Get What You Get and You Don't Pitch a Fit." And then of course, me being me, I pitch a fit.

The mail has never been very reliable here, but instead of finding myself accepting it, I am finding myself getting more and more agitated.

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Yes and no.

It's a snowball effect, these GTMO problems. It starts with not getting a toiletry you wanted but could live without, and then you find yourself mad that you can't get your contact lens or glasses prescriptions filled here. Gas is expensive. You can't buy books here. The car is out of alignment and there is no machine on base (or at least one that works) to align a car here. It takes 45 minutes to an hour to order anything online, because there's this little internet issue. . .

I've been watering some mystery plants outside the secondary campus every other day with the water collected in the four dehumidifiers that suck gallons of water out of the air every day. When I got here, two large pots of plants were on the verge of death. Now I find this:

Not only is there a beautiful lily, but a pineapple! The kind you can eat!

It is considerably larger than the cute little ornamental pineapples that are growing all over my yard.

While watering all the various pineapples, it hit me this week: pineapples are like my GTMO problems. The school pineapple has been slowly growing, getting larger and larger every week, and is still nowhere near being ready to cut down. I need to look at my GTMO problems more like the ornamental ones----they are more abundant and seem to spring up overnight in weird places. In fact, they are everywhere. However, they are also manageable---I can either ignore then and let them die, or if I pay lots of attention to them, they multiply like rabbits.

(Make that banana rats).

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bueller, Bueller. . . ; or, This Mother's Day

While living here, our family has reached some milestones.

During our first year here, Boy 2 finished first grade and Boy 1 finished his first year of high school. The hubby and I celebrated 20 years of marriage.  And this week, Boy 1 turned 16 years old.

It's crazy how fast time flies. I don't know why this particular birthday has affected me so, but it has. A couple of times during the day, I found myself on the verge of tears. Why am I so emotional? He still has 2 years of high school left, so it's not like when I was 16, a junior and then senior in high school, getting ready to take on the world (that's what happened when you started 1st grade at age 5 way back in the 1970s).  We still have time. Yet. . . he is on his way to being an upperclassman next year, taking AP classes and the SAT and ACT, thinking about college visits and getting more and more of those thick envelopes in the mail chock-full of information from colleges. It's crazy.

For his 16th birthday, we went on a mom/son date to the movies. The night's feature was true to Throw-back Thursday:

And wow, did THAT make me nostalgic for the 1980s and got me thinking about my own high school experiences.

I can't believe that since we've been here, my son is half way done with high school.  I remember how high school seemed to drag on for me. I just wanted to be in college, wanted to leave my little town, and most of all wanted to be a grown up and on my own. Like most bonafide adults, I look back and am perplexed---why I was in such a rush to grow up? But I definitely was. That's what I remember most about high school---the restlessness, the waiting, the impatience, and feeling like life was zooming by and I was too young to take part of it.

I was 16 when I saw Ferris Bueller for the first time, and there I was Thursday night, sitting under the stars in Cuba, watching it again with my own 16 year old. I would have never, ever, in a million years guessed what the future would bring at his age. A teacher or librarian? Never! I was going to be a pharmacist. My granddad always liked to remind me that I once wanted to have a big house full of kids (pregnancy/childbirth and grown-up bills put the kibosh on that idea quickly). And living in Cuba, on an American military base? Are you serious???

I was so full of anxiety at his age---where was I going to go to college? What was going to happen to my circle of friends? Would we still be together in college? How could I stand to wait another five years to graduate college and be on my own?

Little did I know that, in the end, those questions really wouldn't matter once I really got to college. I changed schools after a year, changed majors three times, and changed my mind about some people in my life in the meanwhile. The friends I just knew would be there for me forever seemed to move on without me (or changed so much, I moved on without them), and some of the friends that I didn't hang out with often in high school have become my closest confidants today. I met some of the most important people in my life during a semester in Mexico, of all places. I ended a long time relationship and started a life-long romance. I quit worrying so much about the future and started living more in the present.

Raising a teenager is bittersweet. You relive a little of your own childhood, the good and the bad. You wish they would not make some of the same mistakes you made, yet you find yourself relieved that they seem to have a better head on their shoulders in many instances than you did at that age. At least that's my experience so far.

I guess my biggest wish for my son is that he doesn't live through his teen years trying to rush through to the next stage of life. After all, being a grown-up isn't all it's cracked up to be. In the wise words of John Hughes, via Ferris Bueller: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

And Happy Mother's Day to all you mamas out there. It's the hardest job ever, but I always knew one way or another I would become a mom, and I'm glad 16 years ago I got that chance.