New Beginnings

To say that the last few weeks have been busy would be a drastic understatement. Busy doesn’t even start to cover it. Since we left Ireland two months ago, almost every aspect of our lives has been uprooted and altered; we are truly starting over. New jobs, new surroundings, new churches, new cars, new doctors, new dentists, new schools, new activities, new friends. This has been a season of ceaseless “new beginnings”. It’s wonderful and thrilling. It’s confusing and exhausting. It’s a lot to take in.

For starters, the actual moving is overwhelming. The packing and transporting and sorting and unpacking of people and things. So. Many. Things. Some of the Things I don’t even remember because they’ve been packed away since our last move…or the move before that…or any of the eight moves we’ve made in the last nine years. So many Things, in fact, that it’s taken three weeks and four different moving crews to get all of the Things to the same place (by the way, I owe my undying love to these moving crews who lifted and heaved and pulled the Things while I sat  in my kitchen ticking boxes off a list.)

IMG_9434 And now that all of the Things are off the truck and reunited together, every room of our house looks like this. It’s like Bed, Bath & Beyond and Toys ‘R Us and Barnes & Noble and UHaul got together, called all their friends, and decided to infest every square inch of the house.  They’re snuggled up together in closets and under windowsills and in the middle of our walkways. The boxes have taken over.IMG_9495

So, the other day, it kind of all hit me. I was scrubbing poop (not my own) out of the shower for not-the-first-time-this-week and I lost it. I yelled at Jon to PLEASE JUST PUT THOSE KIDS TO BED as I stumbled through the towers of boxes toward the kitchen where I was hoping I could locate a box containing some sort of disinfectant for the unfortunate shower. I was tired. I was full of self-pity. I was so OVER IT.

And then I saw this photo sitting in the middle of our mantle, and it made me stop in my tracks:

41023_672557737000_5220193_n“Hey, Jon. Where is this photo from?” I shouted down the hall (because there was no way I was going to weave my way back through THAT maze again).

“A box.” (duh)

“No, I mean where were we? When was this photo taken?”

“At that dance. You know, when we were in college.”

And then I actually really lost it.

Here I was–surrounded by moving boxes and feeling sorry for myself–looking at a photo of my 19-year old self dancing with that crazy-cute guy she had a crush on. I didn’t know it then, but I would marry that crazy-cute guy. And we’d start a new life together. And we’d have crazy-cute children together. And we’d travel the world together. This was photographic evidence of our first “new beginning” together.

And this is what I realized in that moment of unexpected brokenness: new is not easy. There is a lot of heartbreak and hard work and abandonment of comfort that comes with a new beginning. Whether it’s starting a new relationship or a new job or a new life in a new place, new is difficult. But in those hard times, there is another realization: we were created for new beginnings.

As I was staring at that photo on our mantle, I was reminded that, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Christ is constantly, ceaselessly changing us, breaking us, growing us. Without new beginnings, we would quite literally be nothing. When you think about it, life is really just a series of new beginnings. New beginnings are not to be feared or loathed. No, new beginnings are a gift, even if they do come wrapped in trials.

So, with my new-found respect for my new beginning, I am pressing on. On with the unpacking, on with the scheduling, on with the organizing, on with the making of garage sale piles (Seriously. How do we have so many Things?)

On with this new life, because life really is good.

 

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A Day Living In Corporate Housing

This whole move has been full of new adventures and “firsts” for our family: our first international flight in business class (ammmmazing…), Jon’s first weeks at his new job, and our first taste of corporate housing.

Now, if you’re like I was a few short weeks ago, you have no idea what corporate housing even is. In short, corporate housing is home purgatory. It’s where newly-hired employees (at least, the ones with excellent relocation packages) go to wait out their time until all of their STUFF transports to the same place they are so they can actually live in their own house.

We lucked out and got placed in a pretty amazing apartment for our corporate housing stint. Most of the people living in our complex are just regular apartment-dwellers, but a few of the units are rented out to people like us. Before we arrived, our “relocation team” (how fancy is that?!) went in and stocked our apartment with furniture and dishes and hotel-esque artwork so it would be ready for us to move in, plop ourselves down, and carry on with life as soon as we deplaned in California.

Buckle your seat belts, friends, because I’m going to take you on a journey that many people never get to experience. Welcome to A Day Living In Corporate Housing:

6:45
 Wake up and make your bed. You feel obligated to make your bed properly every morning because it’s so much prettier than the mussed up pile of blankets you’re used to. There are pillow shams. There’s a decorative throw. There is even a duvet-less down comforter –and it’s still WHITE (well, it was white until your kids smeared Cheeto dust all over it).
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7:00
Sneak out of the apartment before the kids wake up so you can take the dog down three flights of stairs and outside for her morning relief. If you wait until the kids are up, this chore will take at least an hour.

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7:30

Walk into your closet to get dressed. Snarl your nose at the 3 dresses and 2 pairs of shorts that you’ve been wearing ALL SUMMER because your entire wardrobe consists of what you could carry on an airplane.IMG_8782 7:45
Start what is sure to be the first of many loads of laundry today. When your entire family is living out of suitcases, you have to wash the same things many times.IMG_87808:00
Take a breakfast and coffee break. Thank goodness the baristas are cute.

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Build with blocks. You’re getting really good at building blocks, mostly because this is the only toy that fit in your suitcase when you moved.IMG_8828

Take advantage of this quiet-ish moment to call on the house listings you found on Craigslist last night and preschools that you are researching for your 3 year old and banks that need your new address and relocation specialists that need to coordinate the packing and shipping of your worldly possessions that are spread across two continents.

10:00
Pool time! This is the best part about living in an apartment–daily access to FIVE swimming pools! Marvel at how your children are beginning to resemble actual fish.
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Catch a free class at the on-site yoga studio.

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12:00
Come home from your morning adventures. Dry off and get dressed. Throw a major tantrum. Real life still happens, even when you’re living in the corporate housing resort.IMG_8803 12:05
Ponder your options for lunch. Settle on some scrumptious options that were not available in your year living abroad (God bless America?!).IMG_882212:30
After lunch, take a walk around the apartment complex. This will take approximately the rest of the day because the apartment complex is actually the size of a small city. No joke.IMG_8808 1:00
Stop for awhile to watch people working out in one of the exercise facilities. Sometimes it’s more fun to spectate than participate.IMG_88071:30
Rest in the outdoor lounge areas and cozy up to the outdoor fireplace (even though it’s sunny and 75 degrees here. Every day. Yes, it’s OK to be jealous.).IMG_88112:00
Visit the “apartment community” playground. Blow some bubbles for good measure.

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3:00
Catch a free movie at the on-site community theater. Help yourself to popcorn, candy and drinks in the free concessions room.
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Return to your apartment to find your daily doorstop delivery. You now order everything online because you still can’t figure out how to move a carload of groceries from the underground parking garage up to your 3rd floor apartment with two small children in tow.
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5:15
Put all of those delivery boxes to good use: 3-2-1-BLASTOFF!!!IMG_9073

…and if the empty boxes fail to excite, flatten out the packing paper and create the world’s longest mural.
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Make dinner. Since you only have 2 pans and 1 large spoon, opt for a preparation-free dinner. Thankfully your relocation team stocked your fridge and freezer before you arrived with gourmet offerings like frozen lasagna and broccoli that steams in its own bag in the microwave.IMG_8790

5:40
Watch cartoons in the living room while Mom “cooks” dinner.IMG_87796:30
Go for a family walk on the trail near your apartment to work off that scrumptious dinner.IMG_88206:45
Stop in the park at the center of your apartment city and throw some balls for your dog. You never have to bring your own dog toys to the park because there are about a thousand rogue balls hiding in the bushes that line the park.IMG_8931 7:00
Go for a quick spin in Daddy’s sweet rental car. Pick up some ice cream for dessert.IMG_9156 7:30
End the day with a nighttime dip in the hot tub.
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Tuck in your friends and say goodnight. You’ll all sleep really well because you basically sleep in a cave (props to Dad for covering all of the bedroom windows with tinfoil to block out that strange light we aren’t used to…the sun.)

Goodnight, corporate housing!IMG_9296

Our new living arrangement has had its ups and downs, its challenges and its benefits–but, mostly, its been fun. And, like never before we are experiencing the truth in this statement: Home is where your heart is. Home is not a house, or even a place. No, home is where there is love.

And, no matter where life takes us, our family is always home.

An Open Letter To Family Dogs (From A Family Dog)

About a year after we got married, Jon and I decided to embark on a new adventure together: dog-rearing. Bota was our first introduction to caring for another living being, and we kind of wanted to prove to ourselves that we could hack it with a dog before we tried it with a human.

For a good long while, Bota was the center of our nuclear family universe. Fast forward four years (and two children) later, and she has…well…succumbed to a new position in the family. To illustrate, this is how I found Bota when I entered the kitchen yesterday afternoon:

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The poor dog puts up with a lot. In fact, I think being the family dog must be one of the hardest jobs out there. So, in honor of Bota and all of the other hard-working family pets out there, I offer you a this letter. It is a letter from Bota to other dogs who might be considering the role of man’s (and childrens’) best friend. Enjoy. Or don’t. Just don’t put any more pool accessories the dog’s head.

Dearest comrades,
Congratulations! You have accepted the greatest calling of your life, that of a family dog. You are entering the ranks of the brave, the loyal, the always-faithful, the tough-skinned and the ever-patient. This is a role that comes with much honor, but with it comes much hard work. I want to encourage you in this journey but, to be fair, I feel I should also enlighten you about the road you are now facing.

You have already enjoyed your golden years. When you’re having a rough day, just remember how good you’ve had it up until now. You had one–maybe two–owners. You were their roommate, their confidante and their companion. You were treated not as an animal, but with the dignity and respect that is sometimes reserved for other humans. Actually, you were treated more like Hollywood royalty. With your frequent spa days and daily trips to the dog park, you often wondered how you got so lucky. Your “parents” bought you gifts on holidays and birthdays and for no reason at all. They planned puppy playdates for you in parks. They arranged doggy resort stays for you if they had to work late or leave town for the weekend. They would even let you ride in the front seat and buy you your own meal at the drive-thru.

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Life was good.

But now they have children–HUMAN children–and life will be different. The love and attention that used to be solely yours will now be shared with the human children. Do not be discouraged, though, because there will still be plenty of love to go around.

The human children will actually enjoy many of the same things you do! They like chasing after balls and will even try throwing balls for you sometimes (although most of them will end up in a bush or over a fence where you will never ever be able to find them again).

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The human children also enjoy exploring. They will be happy to tromp through a river with you and dig in the mud. They may even find a nice stick to throw for you (if they start hitting you with the stick, though, just run them over and pretend like you were playing a game).

IMG_6564The human children will create hilarious games for you to play together. My favorite is where they tell me there’s a squirrel in a tree–EVEN THOUGH THERE’S NOT!–just so I can run and jump and claw at the tree like I’m insane or something. It’s awesome.
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They will think it’s cute to do things like color you a poster for your birthday, even though you can’t read and don’t understand the point of birthdays.
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If you’re really lucky, your owners will feel bad that they’ve completely neglected you for the last year and will even bake you a cake for your birthday. They won’t let you eat it, though, because it’s made of chocolate (hypocrites). 
IMG_3518The human children will love you so much that they’ll even dress you up so you can look like them. Too bad they all look like homeless pirates.
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When the human children are away from you, they will miss you like crazy. In fact, they will insist on employing modern technology to get some face-to-face time with you (because you’re that awesome).IMG_7337

It’s tough work being the family dog, and at the end of the day you’ll probably be exhausted. It’s alright to take a moment for yourself.
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Because, at the end of the day, your job is one of the most important ones out there. You play with and entertain and endure, and love your family. The daily walks and the gourmet dog meals may be long gone (although, kids are a great resource for extra treats at the dinner table), but you have something so much better. You have a family.

For better or worse.IMG_3266

With my enduring love,
Bota