Monthly Archives: May 2014

Growing Pains

Yesterday I flew home to California to see my family and attend William’s high school graduation this weekend. It’s been almost a year since I was back in my home state and have seen some of my family and friends. I am excited for the reunions and to re-experience all the things I love about CA, but I am anxious to be away from my growing family in DC. It feels too soon to be apart from our new little boy who has so quickly captured our hearts. He is devilishly sweet, cuddling up on my lap and giving me warm kisses one minute, and running around biting up all our moving boxes the next. His once puffy puppy face is now maturing into what I believe will be his “adult” profile and his tiny body is rapidly growing, leaving me in a constant state of nostalgia. While I can deal with the personality changes – he has gone from apprehensive to arrogant in just two weeks – I have a harder time accepting the physical changes. I love that he waddles over to me and curls up so comfortably on my legs and fits perfectly in my arms, soon he will be too big for me to carry. Every day he grows, and every day I regret that time changes us in ways that are irreversible. Regardless, I am grateful to be blessed with such a beautiful and loving puppy dog.

 

Since I am gone on a trip and David is working full time, we figured it would be best to take him back to the breeder for a week to stay. He gets to be reunited with his biological family – both Mom and Dad are on-site, along with his brother and sister. We were sad to say goodbye, but living in an apartment, he could not possibly get enough activity necessary to relieve all of that puppy energy. David will be leaving for Alabama when I return on Sunday and then I begin my own Foreign Service training on Monday. I will pick Pigpen up again next Wednesday – I hope he remembers me and is not too much bigger! Once he has received all his vaccinations and is twelve weeks, we plan on taking him to doggy day care while David and I train full-time. This little boy has truly become a member of the family and you can bet he is spoiled rotten.

 

Other than all the transformations we have faced with Pigpen, David and I are physically and emotionally preparing for our life abroad. It has been hard moving frequently from one location to the next which has challenged our patience. There are always many logistical elements to put into place and organize that we understandably get overwhelmed at times – nay, *every day* – these are our own growing pains. When I was transitioning from adolescence to adulthood, I often struggled to handle myself and situations with grace and maturity. My parents would witness the ugliness of my stresses, forced to tolerate emotional outbursts and breakdowns. My dad once said that growing up is hard, and it was this compassion that reminds me that we have to give ourselves slack. With every hard step forward, we’ll fall back a little until we catch up with the pace of the changes. I still find myself rediscovering that even though I am an adult, married, and seemingly mature enough to handle any demands of the future, there are times when I break under pressure and want to curl up in a ball until everything blows over. These are the growing pains. I am relearning how to deal with hard changes, reminding myself that anything difficult is only temporary so long as I quickly adapt.

 

This move to Saudi is going to be painful. There will be no easy way to handle a new country, culture, career, life, etc., I already know this. The anticipation of current and future challenges encourages anxieties that we cannot ignore. We will be tested and bruised and we will question the purpose and value of leaving behind the simplicity of our existence in the U.S. because we need to push back on the pressures until they force us to grow up. Running from the hard parts of life used to be my clutch reaction, but I know now that nothing is gained from running. The train is in motion and we aren’t jumping off until the next adventure pushes us. As our family evolves, and Pigpen continues to grow, David and I are growing in our own ways. Even if our sentimental tendencies leave us reminiscing for the past, the natural progression of time will propel us forward, and these are the days when we make memories.

 

A few pics of our little love (He likes to sleep. A lot):

 

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And a movie of him snoring:

 

Welcoming a New Addition to the Family

Early Saturday morning, David and I organized the crate in the car and made the ninety minute drive to Stafford where our little puppy, Pigpen, was waiting for us. With the sun rising over the hazy mountains in the distance, the beautiful rural roads led us through Northern Virginia, passing through green forestry, cattle ranches, and land that holds deep Civil War history.Along the way we talked about the life changes we would experience with this new responsibility of Pigpen and how excited we were to finally meet our long anticipated addition. Without having ever met him and only relying on weekly updated pictures from the breeder’s website, we knew that he would quickly become our pride and joy, for it was love at first sight.

The breeder is registered with AKC certifying her Beagles’ pedigree and could not have been more thorough in preparing us. With frequent email communication and a few puppy training books, we learned the specifics for readying our home and ourselves for the crazy demands which with we knew our little Pigpen would challenge us.

True to puppy form, this new love has tested our “parenting” abilities by requiring us to be overly attentive to nipping bad behavior in the bud, as well as ignoring the heartbreaking screams and whining when he is looking for attention. His initial two nights home with us were particularly hard on me as I couldn’t help but sympathize with his sadness and confusion over the absence of his litter-mates. He cried for a few minutes the first night and again on the second which was not as bad as we were expecting, but listening to his anxiety in turn created my own and I couldn’t sleep either night despite my obvious exhaustion. Remarkably, David was very content with his earplugs.

With each passing day, Pigpen’s training advances and he becomes more confident and comfortable with his new surroundings. He enjoys his crate and all his chew toys. Even though he has taken to going to the bathroom outside, we are still working on potty training, since neither he nor I have been consistent with timing (oops!). However, with strict consistency, the training books suggest Pigpen will be fully trained in another month.

For now, he continues to surprise us with his evolving personality and development. What joy his loving cuddles and affection have brought us. We couldn’t be happier welcoming our little Pigpen into the family!

 

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All the puppies together one last time. That’s Pigpen right in the front, I was able to identify him immediately.

 

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First time holding Pigpen.

 

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Playing with Pinky the Pig.

 

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With another toy favorite, Mr. Angry Bird.

 

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Sleeping with Bugs the Bunny.

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Cozy and comfortable in his crate.

 

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My NY Top Ten

After a crazy three days of finishing up my last day of work, packing up my stuff, driving, moving in most of my things to the work-provided housing in Falls Church, packing up a suitcase, driving to our current destination, and then moving in again, we are feeling relaxed and rested. We are settled into a hotel here in Winchester while David does some work-related training. The relief of finally being away from the city and in a quiet rural area is indescribable. This morning I awoke to the sound of silence rather than muffled traffic or noisy neighbors, and when I opened the windows I was met with a refreshing breeze rustling the trees and pleasant musical chirping. I know life is already resuming a comfortable pace and am so thankful to finally enjoy these slow moments.

But I am not the only one grateful for the lifestyle change. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, David and I sipped on Margaritas and crunched on chips and guacamole while reflecting on the differences we feel in mood, associating our present dispositions with vacation vibes. Even though David is still working, he says that being in training here is a privilege and pleasure in comparison to the draining work he was doing in NY. For him, for me, for us, this is the best change to pull us back to a doable life where we can focus on being happy, healthy, balanced, in love, and present. Present. Not wishing for or thinking about anything other than the moment at hand. This is a mindset that we haven’t had for a long time and I’m glad we are enjoying it again.

Before I move on from the past, though, I’d like to leave you with my “Miss” and “Miss Not” lists. I’ve been compiling these thoughts for a while now, wondering what I will and will not miss about NY/NJ. A pros and cons so to speak. I meant to post them before leaving, but unfortunately never found the time. These are reflections on the the things that had the biggest impact on me, although not thoroughly exhaustive.

My top ten:

1) BROADWAY. A thousand times over, I could never get enough of all the live musical theater available in NYC – singing, dancing, and drama! By far my favorite thing to do and I will miss all the remarkable talent. Some of my favorites are Jersey Boys, Kinky Boots, If/Then, Rock of Ages, and Phantom of the Opera. Nothing beats the thrill of being carried through a storyline by live singing and dancing. Thank you Broadway for bringing so much joy and excitement to my time here!

2) FOOD. But of course this would make the list. I will miss having close access to all the interesting and delicious flavors found in the city: Cuban, Brazilian, Peruvian, Halal, Indian, French, Spanish, and Chinese have been some of the most satisfying meals of my life. This is not to say that these cuisines can’t be found outside of NY and that nothing can take the place of them (Mexican, Thai, and Filipino food were among my top favorites in CA and can satisfy any craving), but we have been able to come by them so easily here. Goodbye to a city that hosts the buffet table for all ethnic varieties, it has been a pleasure for the foodie in me to explore. Oh, and four words for you: Cookies at Levain’s Bakery. Do it.

 
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A monstrous Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie from Levain’s Bakery. Are you drooling? Me too.
 
3) CENTRAL PARK. A wonderful escape from the hustle and bustle, this experience never gets old and offers a refreshing perspective of the city. No matter the season, biking through the park is relaxing, exciting, and breathtaking. There is no better way to experience the change in seasons of New York City than through the winding paths circling Central Park. Other enjoyable aspects of the city retreat include rowing a boat in the lake, picnicking on a bench or on a blanket in Sheep Meadow, or walking through The Mall and Literary Walk while enjoying artistry and the trees overhead.
 
 
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4) COWORKERS. When we first moved here, I was floating around doing random part-time jobs to earn income and keep busy. I am baffled every time I think of all the jobs I’ve had in the nine months that we’ve been here. Swim instructor, SAT tutor, public speaking tutor, writing consultant, Composition instructor, substitute teacher (for one day – ha!), Super Bowl shuttle bus assistant for the Broncos, and my final and favorite job: leasing assistant for a luxury rental building. With all the different jobs, I was waiting, in particular, for one thing: connections. Not in the business sense of the word like “networking,” but on a personal level like friendships. I’m grateful for all the opportunities for work that I pursued while here, a little disappointed that some didn’t work out like I hoped, but happy that my personality is such that I kept persevering until I found something that did. My current job has been rewarding and inspiring in the sense that I’ve had the opportunity to meet remarkably funny, kind, and intelligent people with to share forty hours a week. How lucky I feel to make these friends. I am sad that the day is quickly approaching when I will move on and not see them anymore – this is the hard part about foreign service life. They have been the touch of humanity that I needed when I was really looking for a place to belong, a true blessing and I will wholeheartedly miss them.

 
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View from my work in Long Island City.
 
5) UNIQUE NYC CULTURE. Miss/won’t miss. This makes the list for both reasons, while I can appreciate the elements of NYC that make it one of a kind, I am not a fan of all, nor most for that matter. In fact, considering my list here, I don’t even have ten things about NYC that I will miss, thus the dichotomy presented.
 
6) NJ TRANSIT. For all the times you left me standing on the street corner in the freezing cold as I begged you to stop while you drove on by wagging your finger at me like this was my punishment for being a bad child. For all the times I was left with “Standing Room Only” and was jolted around while you hit every four-by-four pothole, braked with unexpected urgency, and took turns like we were in a race to the finish line. I hope I never have to experience your inefficiency and unapologetic bad service again. The countless hours and dollars I lost to your overpriced unreliable service are irretrievable and regrettable.

7) SEASONS. Coming from the California desert, I’ve only known sunshine, flash floods, hot and *cool* weather, and snow-capped mountain tops. Not to say that desert rats don’t experience seasons, but… we really don’t. After witnessing every season here on the east coast, my experience with seasons is now completely different and I have a new found respect for them. All I can say is Summer, Fall, and Spring are amazing seasons. Winter can die. Initially I had fun with winter, playing in the snow, ice skating, winter clothes, drinking hot chocolate, making roasts, blankets, Christmas lights, etc. I was told that Winter was “magical.” And it was. For about three and a half weeks. After New Years, it was a nightmare that I endured for four more months. Let me just say that snow birds know what they’re doing.

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I don’t miss this. ^

 

8) NEIGHBORS. To the neighbors two doors down who towed my car when we first moved in and I had to pay $300 to get it back, to the neighbors upstairs who kept me up every Friday/Saturday night with their loud partying, and to our landlord below who always said we were “friends” but when it came down to it, nothing more than business associates: PEACE OUT.

9) SCHEDULES. I know this is a time in my life when certain things just have to wait. Sure, arguably much of our time is spent waiting – waiting for the bus or a coffee break, waiting for true love, waiting for winter to end or for vacation to start, waiting for school to end or careers to start…one individual I know is currently waiting for retirement…he has about thirty years to go still. I know the waiting feels longer when we have more time on our hands and it can make us crazy with impatience. I remember when I was younger, always waiting for the day when I was “grown-up” and could drive and have freedom to make my own decisions without having to defer to someone else first. I thought that life would be so much better and more fun as an adult (which I am happy to say is undoubtedly the truth) so I couldn’t wait to finally get there and “start living.” Thankfully, I’m much more appreciative of the present these days, but I still can’t help the moments when I am waiting… waiting… waiting… for something to happen so life can be easier or more enjoyable. I suppose this is the “grass is greener on the other side” mentality that I couldn’t help but fall into these past nine months. Between all the different part-time jobs and David’s crazy schedule, we never seemed to be in sync – especially most recently. We’ve been just breezing past each other and barely getting the time to sit down and enjoy a meal together. Therefore, I am currently waiting for the day when things settle back down to a normal routine and I can begin exercising and cooking again, and David and I can spend more time shared with one another. It is an aspect of life that I’ve taken for granted in the past – opposite schedules are the worst! I will not miss the long work hours both of us have logged since last July. Here’s to a schedule that doesn’t include waiting for the future.

10) FAMILY TIME. How lucky I am to have such wonderful in-laws. They made our time here on the east coast worth every minute. I won’t ever forget the times I spent enjoying their company either at home over a delicious home-cooked meal or out in the city exploring new neighborhoods together. They gave me a social life when I felt depressed and showed me the ropes at navigating the city when I felt overwhelmed. How wonderful it has been to grow closer. I will always treasure my father-in-law’s delicious gourmet lunches and getting spoiled by my mother-in-law with chocolates and delicious sweets. Food, a love for travel, and an amazing man are the things we have in common and I am forever grateful they have brought us together.

And for the time my mom came to visit, it was a wonderful blessing to share the NY experience with her. Are you still reading my blog, Mom? 🙂

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