Loss or Longing . . .

Walking through one of the largest malls in the world, the glittering Christmas displays spark a sense of sorrow. Is it a feeling of loss for the Christmases surrounded by family? The predictability of Christmas morning: the scramble to the tree, butterscotch rolls, fresh coffee, the effort to delay the day as long as possible.

Or is it a longing? A longing to recreate? A longing to travel & explore? A longing to buy the beautiful displays?

As I pass by the shimmer & sheen, I find my true destination: Bath & Body Works. I’m on a mission to find a lotion to complement the fresh lime scented soap I already have. But instead I’m greeted with the unmistakable smell of Christmas 1997. Yes- THAT specific Christmas. That was the year that I spent 3 months working at the local Bath & Body Works. That holiday was fresh & exciting. Newly engaged to the man that would still be my husband 23 years later, I was ready for life!

The memory immediately made me laugh out loud! I smiled generously as I walked through the socially distanced, well masked store. It took just a moment- a split second- to cross thousands of miles, and several years, and end up in another world.

Obviously this year has been unlike any other. We accepted a job in Dubai with the insatiable dreams to travel Europe during Christmas. And with one word, those hopes were ended. COVID has taken much more from people than European vacations. I recognize the silliness of my loss. However, it has brought about so many other impacts that combined are starting to have long term effects.

As an extrovert, the fact that getting to know people is virtually impossible is hard. I am joining an amazing group of educators that have already established their pods- the people you’d invite to a 5 or less gathering.

I have been 14-day quarantined TWICE (I keep managing to be around people the day before they are positive).

But even more, my newest school placement called 5 days before our move to let us know that we’d have to resign contracts with a 15% deduction. We had no choice. We signed. And now, that deduction will apply to next year as well.

So what do I do? Jump ship, do the unthinkable by breaking contract? All with the hopes of landing somewhere more financially secure? Does that exist? Where in one month I could make back the loss of this move. That does exist. Do I pull Ryan from the school he has liked the best & is thriving? Do I need Shawn to pack up everything we literally unpacked a week ago?

Or do I stay? Do I go in debt for the next 2 years & hope that the 15% is reinstated? I can tell you, it was going to be tight BEFORE the 15%, so I don’t really see that as being much of a viable option. Plus, I appreciate how much the school is trying to operate pre-COVID as much as possible for kids & paying parents. However, it is more than double the work & time for teachers.

I work all the time. I’m still behind. My mind is a constant stream of should do, need to do, forgot to do, & want to do. All. The. Time. I wake up at 4:30 and try to decide if I should get up & work, or try to get one more hour of rest for my brain. Usually, it’s somewhere in the middle at neither. I can’t stop thinking, but I don’t get up.

With Christmas quickly approaching, I’m digging deep into my financially frugal days of 1997. I’m looking to find ways to make our tiny apartment in the Middle East feel like a cozy home celebrating family. Hoping that next year brings a rebirth from the ashes of 2020

Binge and Purge. . . .

For the last three weeks I have been obsessed with binging and purging. And yet, everytime I lose, I am relieved by how much I gain.

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Shortly after my last post, and by “shortly” I mean 3 hours later- my

grandmother finally was able to stop her waiting. I was getting ready to join friends at the movies when I got the text from my mom, “Karen- she’s gone.” I’m glad it was a text. It gives you just a moment to process without the anticipation from the messenger. I rushed to be with my mom, my uncles and my grandfather at her side. There is obviously so much more to this story, but for another day.

It wasn’t long after my last post, 3 days in fact- that I was relieved of my waiting as well. I was offered the job to teach internationally at a middle school in Singapore for the next school year.

Again the juxtaposition of these two events intertwining themselves was not lost on me. Endings meeting new beginnings. Death with new life. Certainty with so much uncertainty. But the most meaningful- the influx of family, friends and support when I have chosen to move thousands of miles away for the first time in my life. I soaked it up. I took in every hug, every word and every moment. But as with all famil

y gatherings, there were moments of stress. Of pain. of lashing. I took those in too. I think you have to. But I reflected on them as moments of humanity, and for that I grateful to have experienced them. I am also grateful for the opportunity to relinquish my “roles” in family situations. Roles that others are able to do and from which I could most certainly use a break.

Our journey to Singapore will not allow for much to go with us. Clothes, personal items, and some basic electronics will be all. We rented a storage unit, but it seems silly to pay to store things that we don’t need or want.

Enter the purge.

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It started with the under the stairs storage area. Seems easy enough- wrapping paper, some old photographs and things from my father’s mother who passed 10 years ago, and random toys. Ohhh no. I opened Pandora’s Box for sure. Hours upon hours looking through old photo albums. Then I realized I should be scanning them and saving digital copies for my siblings!

Enter the binge.

Game of Thrones, Season 3, Episode 1- Go. Four days later, the storage area had been cleaned out, and the most amazing pictures discovered! Some dated back as far as the 1800’s!

Then my clothes closet. Game of Thrones, Season 4, Episode 8- Go! The playroom, season 5, episode 6. And the last three days- my office/studio area, season 7 episode 1. I am exhausted. I cannot make another decision about what to keep, donate, sell, give to someone specific, storage unit, take with us, stare at for three more days, trip over for two then decide, accidentally break. . . .  you get the picture.

I had a momentary breakdown yesterday. Say what you will about the negatives of social media and Facebook, but damn. My people were there for me. Words of support and suggestions flooded in when I don’t know how to do this anymore. The presents given to me by people that are now gone- keep or not? Framed photos? My own artwork from childhood? The amazing advice helped me to carry on and tonight, I feel freer. The clutter is slowly going away. The boxes and bins of junk are being cleaned out. And we keep asking ourselves: Why didn’t we do this earlier? Why? Because it hurts just a little. Yes, they are just things. But, they are representations of the life we have built up to this point. The life where we thought we needed so many variations of socket wrenches for whatever job presented itself. And now we are leaving this version behind.

I cannot wait for this new adventure! Hopefully one where I don’t accumulate as much stuff! But also one where our little family of three will explore and experience the riches that the universe has to offer! After all, it has been conspiring. . . .

Waiting. . . .

Paulo Coelho: Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.


Today I feel small.

Lately I have been working towards something- something pretty big. This process that has spanned several months is reaching a deciding point. It has included three separate interviews and days and nights of hypothetical situations. And while I had expected confirmation of this life altering opportunity last night, I was met with delay. Mind you- not rejection, just delay. But the longer a process is drawn out with little activity, the more that I lose interest or I begin to spiral. I begin a myriad of conversations in my head where it doesn’t work out, I am rejected, or worse, it continues to be drawn out.

So I am sitting on my couch, with a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, watching a fire, typing on my new iPad and feeling downright sorry for myself. Yes- I hear it now. My level of ridiculousness is noted.

But what I am actually trying to do is to understand what the Universe is guiding me towards. How can the delay in this experience create other opportunities? Or is it a lesson in patience? What can the waiting do to make my life better? How can I channel this frustration into something productive instead of wanting to curl up and pout?

My grandma is also waiting. She is waiting to die.

She is 87 and incredibly uncomfortable. She is in a nursing home and is racked with coughing fits so often that now she exists in a morphine haze. Her sly smirk lets us know she can still hear our side conversations that she is desperate to participate in, but unable. She has been ready for weeks, saying her goodbyes, distributing her possessions, but still she lives. It was only after she fell and banged her head a few days ago, that she took a turn for the worse. A turn that is sure to reduce her waiting. But yet, she still waits.

A nurse was counseling her in a moment of frustration recently. She wanted to know when she was just going to die, and why it wasn’t happening. The nurse suggested that time was needed. Maybe not for her, but time for someone else to come to terms or peace with her death. I immediately thought of my son. Ryan, 11, has adored my grandmother his entire life. Growing up directly across the street from this vivacious, spunky woman created a bond between the two that is unlike any other. He has recently shared stories of mini tea parties with tea and sugar and Chex cereal (I’m not sure that’s a “thing” but it was for them!). He reminisces of times dressing up, playing cars on the floor, making apple butter, and stealing sips of her coffee. The time the nurse referred to I am sure is for him. If he were to suffer this loss during a regular school week, he would be a wreck. But as we have just entered a holiday week break for Thanksgiving, it has given me a chance to help him process this impending heartbreak. And if, God willing, it happens soon, he will be home to grieve.

Waiting.

It’s the worse. It forces time to slow down. Virtually stand still. But what if it’s a gift? What if it provides time to reflect, ponder, pursue, pray, seek, breathe, . . . . live?