As the year winds to an end, reflection and resolution are two words that start to work their way into our vocabulary. For me, I seem to be at that age where time is absolutely starting to fly by. For example, I know that Alan Rickman died this year- 2016 was a really horrible year for celebrity deaths, eh?- but it was in January. January! It doesn’t necessarily feel like yesterday, but was it really January?! And was it really only a year ago when my family was happily swimming in a pirate pool in Hua Hin, Thailand? Then there’s the looming prospect of my birthday- how can I be a week and a bit away from turning 39? Didn’t I just turn 38 (though if you asked my sleepy brain the other night, apparently I’m only 36)? Thirty-nine feels old. Thirty-nine sounds old. And it doesn’t help that the Ladybug has recently started to have some understanding of ‘old’ and death and keeps crying because she’s worried I might die soon.
But if I take the time to reflect on the year, I have to say that, overall, it’s been pretty wonderful. The end of this year has more than made up for any of the negative of the beginning (all school-related). If nothing else, my family is together, happy, and healthy and there’s not much more you can ask for.
But there were highs and lows and I’d like to take a moment to think about those- to remind myself that I’m blessed to experience the highs and that I have the opportunity to grow and learn from the lows. Without further ado, here are My 5 Best and Worst Experiences of 2016:
5 BEST EXPERIENCES:
- Moving to Serbia– this was by far the best thing that happened to my family this year. I have long wanted to be in Eastern Europe, not for any particular reason except that, well, I wanted to. We felt an instant draw and connection to the International School of Belgrade and it has not disappointed us. The girls are so happy in school- I absolutely adore their teachers and they’re each making new friends left and right, something that was lacking a bit in Bahrain. We have play dates and (reasonable) birthday parties and they love going to school each day. The Ladybug gets to participate in after-school activities and she bounds up to me at the end of each day to tell me how much fun she had.
For The Rugby Star and me, it has been a complete 180 from our previous place of employment. The students, though relatively well-off, are parented by their parents who actually have an interest in seeing their children succeed in life, not just live off the family money. I feel respected and appreciated by my administration (THAT’S a huge change) and The Rugby Star actually gets to come home and hang out with us during the week. We are constantly thanked, both in person and by lunches, gifts, and activities. The biggest change, however, is knowing that when a student does act like a turd, my principal will actually support me and not immediately place the blame on me. It’s refreshing, actually.
- Summer in GA- our summers in Georgia are always a plus in my life. I love being around family and friends. I adore our house. This summer was magical because the girls are big enough to play with my bestie’s daughters and son. There were sleepovers and afternoons spent in their enormous backyard, featuring a puppy, some big and small four-wheelers, a swing set, and a newly-built deck on the playhouse. The Ladybug and Sprout call it their ‘forest.’ It pretty much is. M, the mom of this fun crew, and I are this close to being able to sit on the porch with a glass of wine and watch the kids play. I got the first small taste of that this past summer. Next summer- oh yeah.
- Dahab– this trip was so much fun! My post sums it up pretty nicely (and features some fantastic photos), so check that out for a recap of this amazing vacation with amazing friends!
- 60 Days in Bahrain– easily one of the best things I did this year. The last school year we spent in Bahrain was depressing and frustrating, to say the least. Spending the last two months focusing on the people and places I would miss was a wonderful ending to a crazy four years. Plus, I got my camera out almost every day, and I really loved that.
- Getting off Facebook- Okay, I’m not totally off Facebook, but I deleted the app from my phone and that was a step in the right direction. I check FB once or twice a week now, instead of several times a day. It’s liberating. At first, I felt like I was missing out on news and information from friends and family. But then I realized that checking FB was as much a habit as anything else, and once I broke the habit, I felt free. I’ve stopped composing status updates in my head, or taking pictures just so I can post them. I don’t get frustrated with my kids for interrupting my FB time- time spent worrying about what other people are doing instead of being with my family. Hmmm. There has been a bit of balance restored in my life. I like it.
5 WORST EXPERIENCES:
- Donald Trump being elected- I won’t go into this, but this is an epic mistake on the part of the American people. I hope to God I’ll be proven wrong- I would LOVE for anyone who voted for him to be able to do an I-told-you-so dance in my face in a few years, but I’m doubtful. I find myself cringing when I hear his name. I am again embarrassed to be an American overseas. It makes me sick to think about.
- Getting the dogs out of Bahrain- I didn’t get around to writing about this horrific experience because it was so raw for so long. It still bothers me when I think about it, but let me see if I can fill you in without crying or vomiting in anger.
The long and short of it is that Bay’s crate is huge because Bay is huge. We’ve had a hard time getting her on flights on smaller planes because we’ve been told her crate doesn’t fit. So I research airlines and flights, and call and research and call and research some more anytime we have to move them. This time, in March, I thought myself incredibly lucky to find a flight with Qatar Airlines which not only boasted a reasonable price, but a reasonable flight time as well. I called and made sure Bay’s crate would fit. I asked several times. The very nice man on the other end of the phone assured me that all was well.
After booking the tickets, I called no less than FIVE times between March and June, speaking to a different person each time, asking if everything was alright and making sure that the dogs had a reserved spot and Bay’s gigantic crate would fit on the plane. Each time, I was promised that everything was fine.
We arrived at the airport at midnight, girls in their pajamas, dogs in crates, and a touch of excitement because we were leaving and flying business class for the 15-hour leg of our journey from Doha to Atlanta. I happily presented our passports at check in and waited… and waited… and then was asked to wait somewhere else. Eventually, a representative from Qatar came out and said, “There’s a problem. You can’t take these dogs on this plane. There is no ventilation system in the cargo space.”
I rationally explained that, no, I had called five times and no one ever mentioned this. He said that wasn’t his problem- they can’t go on the plane.
Me: So what do we do?
Him: I dunno.
Me: What do you mean you don’t know? How are you going to help me? I’m here with my dogs and my kids, I’ve handed over my keys, I have no home to return to, it’s 1am and I’m supposed to be getting on a flight home in an hour.
Me: Crying, screaming, yelling at various people
This went on for a while. His various ‘solutions’ included:
1. You can fly out with the dogs tonight at 5pm, have a 15-hour layover in Doha, and arrive home 36 hours after your family. But we won’t honor your business-class upgrade that you paid for. Also, you have to leave with the dogs and come back later. No, I don’t know where you can go.
2. You can rebook for another day on another flight. No, we won’t honor your upgrade or give you any discount for your flights because, well, this isn’t our problem.
3. You can have someone come get the dogs and bring them back at 8am to cargo and we’ll ship them out in a couple of days when the paperwork has gone through. Sure, we’ll take care of them.
Oh do not ask me why I thought I could trust that last one, but at the time, with the pressure of missing the flight and losing a lot of money, it seemed like the one that would work. Our school driver, who was the most amazing man ever, drove like a madman back to the airport at 2am to get the dogs and take them to Auntie L’s house (who was staying for one extra day) and they agreed to get the dogs back to the airport at 8am. We got on the plane, just barely.
And then we were told that, uh, no, they couldn’t go through cargo.
This is where it gets a little more personal and I’m starting to get angry again. The situation went from bad to worse, and betrayal is the only word I can think of to explain the rest of this story. I apologize for leaving you hanging, but apparently I’m not quite ready to tell this tale.
- Our former school- without committing libel, I will say that I am extremely happy not to work at that school any longer. There are so many ridiculous situations that arose while we were there- you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. We’ll leave it there.
- Blood pressure- finding out I have high blood pressure was definitely one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of the year. I’m hopeful that it was stress-related and that I’ll eventually be able to come off the medicine once I’ve truly let go of the angst I feel towards our former school. But my mom had high blood pressure, so there’s a good chance that won’t happen. I’m pretty much going to blame the school, though.
- Saying goodbye to Bahrain friends- this was tough. Despite the unhappiness at work, the friendships I made in Bahrain will be life-long. I miss so many people every day and am thankful for technology for letting me chat with Auntie L and B as often as I’d like (even right now).
2016 featured some remarkable moments, both good and bad. Mostly, it was life. A life lived and loved and spent in the company of incredible friends and my adorable family. I would not change anything, as every situation leads us to the next and I couldn’t be happier where I am in life. My prayer for my family in 2017 is that it will be as beautifully uneventful as 2016 was.
Happy New Year.