Monthly Archives: July 2012

Home – part two

I’m often told how strange/odd/unique/different I am.  It’s true. I am.  Just today I was trying to fill out one of those online password reminder forms.  It wanted the street I grew up on.  The city I lived in. My 3rd grade teacher…NONE of which I could answer.

So, here’s a bit of background on why I am such an alien. Happy alien. But still an alien.

I grew up on a ship. The Anastasis.  She was  a 522 ft. (183 m), 11,650 ton hospital ship that recently ‘retired’ (it was time.  She deserved to sail away on still, aqua waters, forever.  But, it was and still is, very hard to say goodbye). I moved onboard when I was nine.

See that third porthole back from the 4th deck up? I drew a yellow arrow for you…that’s my cabin…IS my cabin. ‘Cause in my head it’s still mine.

The facts are pretty simple.  How I felt about it is more complex…which I’m sure will feature in future blogs, as its part of who I am.

The Anastasis belonged to Mercy Ships. A non-profit organization that brings hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.  All their work is given for free.  They perform all sorts of surgeries, like the cleft lip and palate repair on this little one.

Their crew of volunteers minister to those terminally ill.

Train local personnel to address mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders.

Agricultural training.

Maternal health training.

Varied construction projects to build local hospitals, training centers, orphanages, and other community service facilities.

And distribute food and other supplies to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Here a picture of us kids (me, Luke and JP), shortly after we moved onboard, and then with Mom & Dad, and Charles, after he was born.

During my ten years onboard, we sailed all over, usually spending half of each year in the world’s poorest nations (by WHO standards), and visiting 1st world countries the other six months, to gather supplies, support, and volunteers.

‘The Ship’ as everyone calls it that lived onboard, was like a floating village.  There were upwards of 500 people and over 50 kids at any given time.  We had school in a designated area, built-out with classrooms on the aft (back) of one of the decks.  And unfortunately, Mom was the Principal for a while. I didn’t like that so much.  She was great, but you can’t get away with anything when your mom is your teachers’ boss…

We did science experiments and had piano lessons (and the dreaded recitals).

A nuclear submarine engineer and Chief Engineer taught my advanced trig and calc classes. During the summers we had to volunteer with the department of our choice.  My favorite jobs were volunteering with the fire team, the aft deck snack shop, and working with a construction crew. I’m sure painting on my arm was really helpful.

These glimpses into my life don’t really begin to describe it. I loved every minute of it in many ways, and at the same time really suffered from it too (mostly because of who I am). One of the things I found the hardest was the constant goodbyes to friends, either as we sailed away and waved goobye to them and their country, or as other ‘ships kids’ and their families moved back ’home’.

But, growing up on the ship gave me an innate understanding and love for people of other cultures.  That raises the question of what ‘other’ cultures are. Hmmm. Not sure what culture I am…But I know I am so very grateful for how blessed I was, and am.  Growing up as I did was the amazing gift that made me who I am. That gave me the heart for development. That exploded my worldview. That gave me such a feeling of fulfillment and joy. That helped me truly see and really love people.  All people.

And now, Dreamboat and I are about to take the kiddo’s back! Back to living with people from 149 countries.  Back to making a difference.  Back to doing our small part to change the world.

We start volunteering (yes, we’re PAYING for the privilege to work) on the Africa Mercy this fall.  This ship will be in Guinea.  My life, in an awesome and strange way, is coming full circle.  I get to introduce my kids to my home.  It will change their world…and make them odd too.

And by the way, I like being odd.  It suits me and it will suit them :-)

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Itinerary

This is subject to change, depending on flight costs and whims of fancy, but our plan for the coming year is to divide our time between four different areas. We’d also like to ‘follow-the-sun’ so that we don’t have to pack winter clothes. And because, well, we’re tired of the grey Seattle weather.

First, we’re volunteering with Mercy Ships in Guinea. We’ll be living on the Africa Mercy. Dreamboat and I will be teaching business and managerial skills and offering coaching to the crew. I hope there will be lots of opportunities for us and the kids, to get to know some of the patients. To color with children before their surgeries, and sit with them and their mamma’s and daddy’s while they wake up.  G has already collected a bag of small toys–to give to children he meets in the villages we’ll visit.

After Christmas in Morocco (I know, what an incredible DREAM!), we’re heading to Southern Spain …time to take advantage of the slower pace of life and the Euro crisis. And Spanish immersion classes. I keep telling the kids, repeatedly, that my dream is three-hour meals, where we lounge around a table of incredible food, enjoy each other’s company, and just BE together.  They just look at me like I’m crazy.

OK.  I have to tell you here, that one of the reasons Miss O has been supportive of this whole, crazy plan, is that she wants to spend some time in Paris (her current dream is to be a fashion designer there).  And, as the flight gods didn’t align, we’re now flying through Brussels and not Paris, on our way to Guinea.  Haven’t told Miss O yet…

Then on to Peru for the third leg of the trip, where we’re planning to take surfing lessons, volunteer at an orphanage, and lose ourselves in more Spanish language and culture. And visit Machu Picchu.  I’ve always dreamt of hiking the trail up to visit the ancient Inca city. At this point, my three kiddos couldn’t do it on-foot, so I may have to adjust my dream a bit.  But, who knows….by then my kids’ endurance may be better.

Finally, we plan to spend some time on the East Coast of the US, focusing on revolutionary US history, with visits to Washington DC, the Smithsonian Museums, and several of the historical battle sites.  We’ll also be planning how to re-enter ‘normal society’, strategizing, and doing job searches.  And, Dreamboat wants to spend these three months in an RV.  HELP.  I don’t see how even my favorite chocolate and wine can solve this one…

AND we recently adopted a dog.

Major complication.  The kids are in love.  I’m irritated (although late at night, when no one’s watching, I rub her belly while we snuggle on the floor. She’s not allowed on the furniture).

So we’re also working on pet-travel-regulations. And by ‘we’, I mean Dreamboat.

 

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Home – part one

Our house is on the market. For sale or lease. Whichever comes first.

I’m sure our neighbors just love us.  You see we only moved into the house a year ago.  And it was a dump and we’ve turned it into our dream house and reduced the dozen cars and other issues the neighbors hated, that came with the people who were renting it. And now we’re selling it.

This house has fulfilled a lot of dreams for me.  I love to entertain and to decorate.  The process of taking a place with urine-stained carpet…and the smell that accompanies it…into a welcoming and beautiful home, gets my creative juices flowing.

In our previous place, when we had friends over for dinner, once everyone was seated at the table, it was no longer possible to move around the room.  At all. There was no room.  The table extended through the hall and up to the adjoining wall.  Had there been room to move a chair back enough to stand up, there was no point, there was no-where to go.  In fact, and this was really embarrassing, the door to the toilet was directly next to the head of the table.  People didn’t want to leave the table for ANY reason… you get my drift here, right?

You may wonder why I still kept inviting people over.  But I love to entertain. Truly. Deeply.

I’ve got to stop thinking about that, as I’m feeling all caged up again, and shoe-horned and uncomfortable.

Our current place makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And proud of it and what I’ve done with it.  And at peace. Especially when there’s people over…or a party on the horizon J  We’ve had fifteen sets of overnight guests in the year we’ve been here, and are eagerly awaiting 4 more groups before we leave.   Woohoo. Can’t wait.

Although I’m so very happy here, I’m ready to sell. At least I keep telling myself that it’s just a house. There will be other places to decorate and welcome friends into, right?

I want to focus on my children and the relationships we build, and the kind of people they become. And I believe (Hope. PRAY)  that our dream of traveling with the kids, and all they will be introduced to, and our time together, will shape who they are and make them better people.

There are lots of inspiring, wonderful people out there who haven’t taken a year like this.  Whose dreams are different.  But it looks as though, because I am who I am, and because of how I grew up, that once again, we’re going to choose the hard way.  Beautiful too.  But hard. Staying, for our family, would be easy.

But here’s what scares me.  Ok, here’s one of the MANY things about this year that scare me…

I grew up living in 200 square feet, but without a home (I grew up on a traveling hospital ship – more about that in another post). And I know what it’s like to not really belong ANYWHERE.

And my little kiddo’s are begging us NOT TO SELL THE HOUSE.

And maybe I’m projecting, but am I going to scar them? Will they feel lost and untethered?  Will they feel abandoned, or worse… rejected…by their friends who may fill up, with other friends and activities, the gap my kids leave?

I just opened an email with an offer on the house. Today. Now.

So, tonight, Dreamboat and I will be discussing the pro’s and con’s of selling the dream house.

And potentially scarring our kids.

Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated…

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Breaking my heart a little

It’s been one week since the big decision.  Tonight was the designated night to let my friends in on the secret. Talk about shaking with excitement and dread.  I want my girlfriends to know what’s consuming my mental and emotional capacity. I need them to know.

I need them.

But telling them also makes it really real. As in REAL.

And six years after moving here, I finally feel like I have an amazing circle of friends.  My community.  We’re finally really happy and settled here.

And now we’re leaving.

FOR. A. YEAR.

The evening started out well.  I played stylist and selected outfits with matching bags, jewelry and shoes for every potential type of event…from my closet.  I gave away the ball gown I was wearing when newly pregnant with Miss O and Tippi Hedron accosted me in the ladies room by rubbing on my not-yet-protruding belly.  Ok, maybe it wasn’t quite an assault, but having never been pregnant before, I hadn’t been warned of the violation of personal space that was to come.  I gave away the suit I wore when I pitched the VC in San Francisco. I gave away the four pair of leather boots my friend Teresa picked out for me, sight unseen, at a Nordstrom ½ of ½ of ½ sale. I gave away the sequined shirt and jacket I wore to see Mama Mia one fun evening in London.  I gave away the red high heels I wore when Elvis walked me down the aisle to marry Dreamboat that night in Vegas.

Several people have asked if there was a sadness.

There wasn’t.  I loved purging my closet of the extravagance of things I haven’t worn in years. And I really loved seeing the joy on my friends’ faces when they found JUST the right thing.

And there was an abundance of champagne and wine. And amazing appetizers they all made.

Just FYI, I pick great friends.  In addition to being wonderful people, they’re foodies too.  And boy can they deliver a host of mouth-watering delicacies.  Diet be damned.

Although there was no grieving the stuff, there was a ½ day of panic that I was wounding my kids.

My family moved a lot when I was younger, and my family gave away EVERYTHING.  Almost all my parents’ stuff is relatively new, whereas the friends who were recipients of all that generosity have ‘our’ antiques lining their walls.  And my Dad no longer has his letters jacket. And whenever Dreamboat leaves a back-up hard drive in their closet, he tapes a big sign over it saying ‘Do NOT throw away.  I will collect soon.” And includes the date of the expected pick up.

So…after some soul searching and a chat with Teresa, of the four pair of leather boots, I realized it wasn’t a binary problem.  I’m smart that way! I didn’t have to keep everything, or give everything.

So, I let Miss O pick some of her favorite pieces of jewelry, and kept two sparkly shirts hidden in my closet that she has eyed for years.  And I asked her if she was okay with what I was giving (she answered that she had already taken all she wanted). The wedding gown is still safely archived on the top shelf.  I even kept TWO pairs of running shoes for those weeks when I fit in running AND exercising at the gym.

Back to the evening.

I had put off telling my news as long as I could.

I finally called an intermission to the private-trunk-show-shopping and discovered that corralling my friends away from the free merchandise was a bit like herding cats. When we finally all gathered in the kitchen for the dessert course, I told them all how much I treasure them in my life, how they are my personal ‘corporate board’.

And…that I’m leaving.

Talk about ‘Debbie Downer’.  From then on, there was a lot more tears, a lot less champagne.  And no toasts.

When the shock wore off, and we were able to talk again, several said how much they admire my strength. My ability to step out of my comfort zone and make the hard decisions.

That I inspire them.

I didn’t feel inspiring.

Tonight felt like paying the cost of following your dreams. The heartache of leaving.  I’ve always been the newcomer and never felt like I really belonged.

Until now.  And now I’m leaving.

I will treasure these women in my heart. Always. And as happy as I know I’ll be out on my big adventure, I know I’ll long for them.  For their friendship. For their openness and honesty and willingness to share their lives with me. And for the taken-for-granted-joy of sitting over several glasses of wine and looking into their beautiful faces, and talking.

As happy as I am to follow my dreams, my heart is breaking just a little.

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Breaking Their Bubble

I broke open the champagne. Made the kids their favorite smoothies and announced, “We’re celebrating!”  Dreamboat and I had carefully crafted an announcement that would appeal to the little ones (we are darn good marketers after all).

I started with, “Remember our recent family vacation to Asia, and what fun we had?”  I smiled all goofily.  “and remember how you keep asking to visit the Africa Mercy and help all those children get to see again and other people get their surgeries?” Who can resist the emotional pull of being part of little kids getting their eyesight?  Right?

Dreamboat continued with “Well, how about if we go on vacation for a year?”

He rattled off the places we have in mind, and made sure to mention we’re considering a visit to Disney World for the East Coast/RV leg of the trip.

Miss O jumped up and ran to get the globe.  She spun it in circles, rattling off places she wants to visit. That girl is JUST like her mama. G burst into tears and left the dinner table in distress, repeating “I want to stay home and go to school”. He is convinced he will have to start back in 1st grade upon our return. Peanut ignored us all and kept playing with his food. I know they need to adjust and grieve leaving in their own ways, but it wasn’t the fun celebration we’d hoped for.  However, at breakfast the next morning, G announced, “I’ve decided I’ll go to Disney World and then stay home.”  I think he’ll come around :-)

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No more snooze button

Dreamboat and I went out for a date tonight and decided to do it….to pull the trigger on a decision we’ve been weighing and considering and analyzing and pondering and dreaming about. You get the idea. We decided we’re moving forward with the trip of a lifetime and are going to resign from our jobs, take the kids out of school, sell the house, and travel for a year. We’ve always wanted to expose the kids to the world and travel as a family. We’re doing it.

And, as he says, “It’s like having a baby. There’s never a perfect time. We just need to do it.”

I am easily tempted to hit the snooze button in my life and postpone following my dreams or making big decision for ‘when…’ No more snooze. ‘When’ is NOW. Everything in my future begins right here. Right now. Funny thing is I feel an awakening. I feel an ease and grace and stamina. Don’t get me wrong, on the surface I’m trying to unload a house full of stuff, figure out how to homeschool my kids, research the best places to live, arrange the best schedule, etc., all while continuing with the daily activities that come with work and life. But, underneath it all, I’m smiling. I feel joy. And if I’m completely honest, I also feel moments of panic to think of leaving my friends. But they’re relatively small and fade with easy reassurances.

The plan is to spend around three months in four different locations. We are going to volunteer in Guinea, spend some time focusing on American History on the East Coast, enjoy the quality and pace of life in Southern Europe, and immerse ourselves in the culture and language of South America. Although there’s no current plans, I may take up Flamenco dancing. Who knows? The world is my oyster…

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