Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tuesday Slice: Twelve ahead, plus two

It shouldn't be surprising that tension was high in the house last week. Everyone's feelings were swinging from excitement to sorrow, almost on an hourly basis, our hearts at the ends of pendulums suspended by taut heartstrings.

A few times, the strings broke.  Tears, anger, frustration, withdrawal if it happened on the downswing; bouts of laughter, impromptu hugging, jumping up and down on the upswing.  Then practicalities would set in, and we were back at work.

It is work, packing one's life into two suitcases, a carry-on, and a laptop bag.  There were last-minute shopping and bank runs.  The traveler, Virgo that she is, packed and repacked days ahead, wisely weighing her luggage to avoid extra fees.  Her father, ever the problem-solver, figured out a way for her to handle the luggage on her own at her arrival.  Her mother was more worried about making memories with favorite family meals and a girls' night out.  Her brother joined her on Pokemon hunts and video game playing, both of them staying up past their parents' bedtimes.

Friday came quickly.  We were out the door on time, and arrived in Houston a few hours later, with the added good fortune of hotel rooms ready before noon.  The traveler went into work mode, meeting up with fellow employees to take a shuttle to orientation. 

A reception at the residence of the Consul General of Japan brought everyone together again.  The friendliness of the staff, coordination of the JET program, and sparkling personalities of the JET applicants added to the excitement of this new venture.  Speeches and toasts were made, and then it was back to the hotel for one last family meal.  The traveler visited with us for awhile in our room, but left to join her roommate for the night.

Sleep was hard to come by that evening, and no one was overly hungry for breakfast in the morning--except the brother, who had chocolate cake left over from the night before.  We went to help the traveler and her roommate with their luggage, meeting the rest of the group crowding into the hotel lobby. Seeing them onto the bus, we left ahead of the shuttles and waited for their arrival at the airport. 

It takes awhile to check in a group of more than three dozen fliers, but we didn't mind; it gave us time to talk and meet some of the other travelers.  

Bags checked, boarding pass and passport in hand...it was time to say goodbye at the security gate.  Three rounds of hugs, and she was off.  We watched through teary eyes on a balcony overhead as she made her way through the scans and on to the terminal, waiting as she laced on her purple converse sneakers.  With a wave and blowing kisses, she joined the others heading towards the international terminal.  We didn't leave until her feet disappeared beneath the ceiling line below us.

It was a quiet ride back to the hotel.  As we loaded the car, planes flew over us every few minutes, and we tried to guess which one was hers, saying goodbye to each just in case.

The traveler arrived safely in Tokyo thirteen hours later.  

For the next year or two, a piece of our hearts will be twelve hours ahead, plus two.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tuesday Slice: The countdown begins--and I'm a bit scared

I have fifteen days--including today--that are free of work commitments or professional development, before my calendar year starts.  Not consecutive days; I have a leadership team retreat this Thursday, professional development sessions for two days next week and two days the following week.

My husband took this week off from his work.  Not because we are taking a true vacation --no one in the family could ever agree on even a day trip, so I gave up trying for that.  Instead, he's giving our teenage son  driving lessons, and completing home projects like faucet nozzle replacement, mowing the lawn, and fixing my bicycle.  

And there's the biggest family project of all this week:  helping our college grad daughter prepare for her first job--which just happens to involve a year, maybe more, abroad in Japan.  We've been on shopping trips for clothes, toiletries, travel amenities, and gifts for her employers, all of which needs to be packed in two suitcases and a carry-on bag.

We'll accompany our daughter to Houston this weekend, to attend a reception and see her off at the airport.  We'll wait and watch her go through the TSA line, catching one last glimpse as she gathers her stuff from the trays and puts on her shoes.

It will be bittersweet, seeing her off on her big adventure, but not scary.  This is her third trip to Japan; when visiting last fall, we were awed by its culture of honor and respect.  Truthfully, I'd be more worried if she were heading for a big city stateside.

After seeing her off, attention will shift to the coming school year.  I'll be the librarian for 1200 elementary students next year.  One hundred more students than last year.  And I've heard rumors that there may be more...

That's what's got me a bit scared.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tuesday Slice: In search of FUN

There is a book languishing somewhere in my to-be-read pile called The Gift of Play:  Why Adult Women Stop Playing and How to Start Again by Barbara Brannen.

I need to dig it out right now and read it. 

Sometime in June, I loudly proclaimed to my husband "I need to have some FUN this summer, something to feed my spirit so that I can go back to work in August with a smile on my face and a story to tell when someone asks about my summer break."

Here I am, halfway through my one month of no-work-appointments, with a planner full of work-related reading and projects, commitments to exercise and clean and deal with children's activities.  

There is a sprinkling of fun (little f) here and there--swimming in the neighbor's pool, painting a sign for our house, going to a concert with my husband, reading a book just for me.  

I try to make activities fun.  There's a subtle difference, though, between injecting fun into an activity one feels obligated to do, and doing something just for fun. 

Nothing on my calendar screams FUN.  And I'm not even sure I could articulate what that really looks like, anymore.  I just know it's missing.

I've got two weeks to figure it out and squeeze it in.  Maybe Barbara Brannen can help me.  You'll know where to find me today, in between exercising and cleaning.  I'll be searching for my funny bone.  If you find it first, can you please return it? 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tuesday Slice: What I've learned from having children, part two

Last week, I wrote about some of the lessons I learned since becoming a parent.  There was definitely a steep learning curve during the first decade-and-a-half.  My children are now young adults, and the learning hasn't stopped.  
  • Teenagers are just as different as young children.  What worked to motivate one child does not necessarily motivate another.
  • Bribes can work, especially big ones.  You really want to go to film camp?  Sure, just make sure there are no more missing grades or zeros for assignments in your classes.  Voila, better grades!  (I should also add that said child lobbied hard for this camp, stating it would help him decide what to pursue in college--good argument.)
  • On the subject of arguing...there will be some, no doubt.  It helps to remind adolescents that we are all on the same side--the side of growth and health and happiness for all involved.  
  • Lack of participation in household chores at home does not necessarily lead to inability to do so when teens are on their own.  I stepped up once I was in my own place, and my firstborn did, too.  In fact, she does more cleaning now when she is home than she did as a teen!
  • How your child acts at home may be completely different than how they act in public.  This can be a good thing!  Standing back and watching my children interact with others in school and abroad has given me a greater sense of who they are as a whole person, separate from their roles in our family--I see friendly, polite, positive, cooperative young adults.  It gives me perspective when dealing with the previous two bullet points.
  • It is so gratifying to watch your children form tight friendships with other positive-minded people.  Knowing they are building a social safety net eases my mind.
  • Saying "I love you" and giving hugs is still a thing in young adulthood--even though the youngest has to bend down for me to kiss the top of his curly head.
  • Conversations at the dinner table have become so much more intellectual and humorous!
  • College debt is a given, or at least it is for us.  I just accept that and move on.  It stresses out our recent college grad, and I am reassuring her weekly that it will be paid off eventually, and we'll make sure she doesn't starve or end up homeless in the process.
  • Young adults will continue to surprise you, and often in positive ways.  I am amazed that my introverted, homebody son wants to spend a week with complete strangers in NYC to figure out his future goals.  Our college grad is heading back to Japan once again, this time for a paying job that will last one to two years. Their courage and focus is inspiring! 
I hope that parents of young children who read this will feel better about dealing with the upcoming teen years.  This stage can bring so much growth for all involved!  I am excited to see what the future holds for my young adults--and for me and my husband, as we navigate through this new phase in our family.