Sunday, June 17, 2012

Two weeks until departure...

My degree came in the mail this week. So, it is official... I hold a Master of Arts degree in Strategic Communication & Leadership from the University of West Florida. Here is a photo of me holding it:

What this means is that I no longer have classes, homework or papers to write… or so I thought.
Upon my graduation in May, the Communication Arts Department at UWF offered me a position as an adjunct instructor, teaching courses online. This is wonderful for me because I would like to pursue a career as a college professor (however, I need a Ph.D. to do that, so it will be awhile) and I needed a job I could do from Japan. Since I have a background in journalism, I will be editing student stories for the weekly school newspaper, The Voyager, and teach a class in Global Communication. Very appropriate, if you ask me, since I will be studying some global communication of my own as I acclimate!

However, it is the department’s policy that all online instructors take two 5-week online courses about teaching online courses before they start teaching the online courses. They are offered in June, July and the Fall. Fall is too late for me, since I am teaching in the Fall. Since I am not sure how or when I will get Internet access in Japan, I could not take these classes in July. We leave Pensacola July 2 and, after visiting family and friends, should be arriving in Japan mid-month. Taking classes and being successful in them would have been a huge challenge for me.

So, that left the month of June for me to take the two classes. So I am taking two classes, complete with homework and papers to write. Now, ordinarily, this would have caused little stress. I have proven I can balance working full time with three graduate classes. But now I have an entire household to move halfway around the world and all of the calamity that entails. So, when the instructor emailed everyone the fourth of the five weeks, and said that half the class had dropped out because they were too busy, I wanted a list of those people so I knew who I did NOT want to take on a deserted island with me. But I digress…

As those of you who know me might remember, my children usually spend the summers with each set of grandparents (California and Illinois) and those said grandparents decide how and when to switch the kids from one state to the other. This year, with the move, will be different. Please note: Having kids around when you are moving is not recommended. They get bored, anxious, and inadvertently add stress to the already stressful situation. So they were sent off to Rodney’s family in Illinois for the month of June, but we still had to take a weekend to get them halfway there, to Memphis, where Rodney’s aunt and grandparents met us to take them the rest of the way. And just a side note: Rodney’s father is in hospice care at home with a malignant brain tumor and not doing well. It’s a heartbreaking situation. However, Rodney’s mother, sister and the rest of the family wanted the kids to visit and they are making it work. I am grateful to have the time I need to devote to the move, the kids are having fun (they just went to their first Cardinals baseball game!) and Rodney’s family gets to enjoy them.

Since the kids left for Illinois, Rodney and I have been very much focused on getting packed and ready for the move to Japan. While it has been a weeks-long process, everything is moving faster now that we are only two weeks out, and seems to be happening all at once. The house is 90 percent organized and in different piles: Storage (with a storage company), advanced shipment (about 1,000 pounds of stuff to camp out in a home once we get one - we should get this in Japan by August 1), personal property shipment (the main shipment that could take months to get to us) and the stuff we are taking with us on the planes in suitcases and backpacks.

There was also a fifth pile, the garage sale pile, which has since been sold or donated. We had a garage sale Friday and Saturday morning. We did pretty well, making almost $1,600. We still have some of the furniture items left that we are trying to sell on Craigslist, but I’m not too worried about it. Our house has also rented to a Coast Guard couple with two boys who fell in love with the dinosaur mural my sister-in-law, Jill, on the kids’ playroom wall, so that is another thing I am not worried about. My last day working for the credit union, for which I now work three days a week, is this Friday, June 22. It will be sad to leave, but it’s time to move on. I feel like a made a positive impact there and that is the most anyone can hope for.

Now, what I am worried about:

My car: I am trying to sell my beloved car, which has had only three people inquire. The 103K miles seems to be turning people off. I have truly loved my 2007 Explorer Limited, and would not be selling it if we were not moving. It’s priced below its Kelley Blue Book value, but still no bites. Unfortunately, we still owe money on the car, so there is a limit to how low I can go, but I don't want a car payment for a car half a world away either.

Best case scenario: Someone buys it. Worst case scenario: We take it to Illinois, park it with the family and keep paying on it until it sells. Yuck.

My dog: We still don't have a plan for our 14-year-old geriatric boxer dog, Marble, who I have had in my family since she was 6 weeks old. It tears my heart to pieces. I feel as though there are no good options. As bad as it sounds, I had hoped she would pass away from natural causes – most boxers don’t live much past 10 years old. Here's a photo I took in the kitchen on Friday of her waiting for a cookie:

As you can see, she is stubbornly hanging on to her (sort of) decent health. She has arthritis in her back legs, may have suffered a stroke last year that causes her head to tilt to the side, has hardly any teeth left and is deaf, but she still want to play with Rodney every night and eats like a horse. If she was suffering, I could justify putting her to sleep. But putting her to sleep simply because we are moving? Not acceptable. But I also have a selfish wish: My two boxers who died here in Pensacola have all been cremated and buried in Illinois. I have kept their collars. I want to do the same for Marble. If someone is kind enough to adopt her, would I still be able ask for her ashes and collar? I am in tears as I write this because, again, I don’t find any of these options to be good ones.

My preparedness: Rodney is constantly telling me that I shouldn’t stress out about the things I cannot control. My mother tells me I am lucky and things always fall on my lap. I believe I fall in to a different category: Living by a philosophy of crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s and being as prepared as possible. This means working hard, not procrastinating, worrying a lot about the aspects of a situation I can control, and being ready for whatever opportunities or challenges life throws at me.

And I have tried very hard to do that for my family these past six months. But I am living outside the United States for the first time, a world away from family and friends (with the exception of Rodney and the boys, of course!). I will make new friends, and I know I am flexible and adaptable – any dedicated military wife is. But am I taking the right things? Do I have the right items on the right shipments? While the items I store be safe? Will the items I ship to Japan be safe. Where do I put my scrapbooks and heirlooms? What can I pack and get through customs? Will I maintain my sanity?

These are the things that keep me up at night. Rodney keeps telling me it will all work out as it should. I suppose that should be comforting but it hasn’t been yet. I’m more of a doer than a thinker, and waiting for things to work themselves out take patience. And any patience I have is a learned behavior, taking a lot of energy to manage. But maybe it will. So many things already have. Maybe everything will work out. Only time will tell.

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