Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

2010? Seriously? How can a year go by so quickly and yet so slowly at the same time? And really, can the Y2K scare be from a whole decade ago? Crazy. I feel like this is an appropriate time to admit that I'm starting to feel old.

Back to 2009.
Every year on December 31st (give or take a day), my mom asks me the same two questions: What are your hightlights? What are your lowlights? Since I'll be out of touch for a few days and I won't be able to talk to her, hopefully the blog can keep the tradition alive. (I'll do the lowlights first. I kind of like saving the good news for the end.)

Lowlights: Walter's burn; Charlie's accident; saying good-bye to people I love; adjusting to life in the UAE: new routines, new ways of living, accepting a loss of certain freedoms; job drama (both in Bellingham and in Abu Dhabi). Bleck.

1. jan . jello slip & slide 2.feb . multnomah/camas/portland/vancouver trip 3.mar . walter's burn 4.apr . san juan spring break bike tour 5.may . childhood fantasy come true: tom sawyer raft! 6.jun . adventuress fieldtrip 7.july . charlie vs. the harrow 8.aug . off to new adventures! 9.sept . exploring my new home 10.oct . discovering the desert 11.nov . azerbaijan 12.dec . holiday silliness

(just a few) Highlights: having a job teaching internationally (it's been a dream for quite some time); Walter's recovery; supportive friends and family; the natural water slide in the Palouse River; snowshoeing on sunny days at Mt. Baker; when my mom helps me with random projects (like finding 30 walking sticks) and when she manages things while I'm away and when she lets me stay at her house when I'm sick; trips to see my grandparents in Camas and Blaine; biking the San Juan Islands over spring break with Robin; Jill & Molly photo shoots & adventures; spending the summer with my family/families in Colfax (!!); eating ice cream with Rose; Charlie's recovery; building a Tom Sawyer raft with the help of many friends; living in a charming house with irreplaceable roommates (April, Kelli, Rose, that's you!); comforting talks with my dad; the Jell-O Slip & Slide; the people and the scenery at Youth Dynamic Adventures; yoga; the "Year in Mexico" dinner ritual; being able to bike to work; the fire pit in the backyard; having an open door, 'just drop in' policy at Cousens' house; being abroad with Jill; Camp Skeeter and the last few months of school with my fourth graders; building and deepening relationships; audio books; good health

2009 was a year with a lot of big changes. I agree with Saul Alinsky when he says that "Change means movement. Movement means friction." There was a decent amount of friction in my life-- enough to make me wish for smoother sailing in 2010. At the same time, I feel kind of guilty wanting life to be easier--compared to most people, I already have it good. Really, really good. You, dear family and friends, are a big part of all the good in my life. Thank you.

2009: Much to reflect on; much to be be thankful for; much to appreicate.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Birthday Wishes for Galen *updated*

Happy Birthday!!!

Here's just a few (of the many, many, many) reasons I'm glad you were born:

You have a great talent for making people laugh.
I mean, how many brothers were put in charge of potty-training their little sister by tap-dancing?

You are a good listener.
9 times out of 10, you'll be there to listen when I call you with a problem. Car drama, boy drama, work drama, Momma drama--you've heard it all. Not sure if I've told you this, but I don't think I've ever appreciated your willingness to listen more than during the summer of 2007.

You are generous.
I have seen the way you enjoy giving gifts and sharing what you have--even if it's not very much. Back in the day when I didn't think you had hardly any good qualities (like in 3rd grade or something) I remember realizing you were pretty cool to give me so much of your Halloween candy. Guess I found your generosity impressive then and I still find it impressive now.

You are a good driver.
Yes, you heard me--I am actually admitting it. Being an Abu Dhabi commuter for 4 months has convinced me that I should remain a pedestrian/passenger. You would do a much better job behind the wheel than I would.

You are fun.
Duh. Just look at this picture of us jumping on the bed.

(By the way, I love how you not only convinced mom to let us jump on her bed, you also got her to take the photos.)

You are up for adventure.
My top Molly-Galen Adventures include seeing how scared we could get when we turned off all of the lights in the basement, climbing as high as we could in the pine tree by the bus stop, building forts in the barn, playing "chase" with the rooster, sledding & making 'mostly-finished' snow caves, and exploring the collapsed railroad tunnel at the end of the Palouse River Trail.

You take life in stride and don't make a big deal about the little things.
Getting your head cut open by a dirt clod---No big deal. Setting the barn (and the fence and the field) on fire--No big deal. Almost driving the tractor off of the hill and into the road--No big deal. Me: Well, I'm just a bit more dramatic about everything. I like how you usually remain calm, even when I panic. (Remember the time I thought there were burglars in the basement? Case in point.)

You are a dreamer.
I love how you always have new schemes and plans. It's fun and refreshing to hear about your ideas. I also admire how you are usually a blue-sky thinker--even when the circumstances are less than ideal.

Wishing you many dreams come true this year! So glad to be able to celebrate who you are today!

*Sorry--I only had time to post the one picture this morning before I had to go!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

fal la la la la la la la la

deck the halls with boughs of holly . . .
although i didn't deck the halls of my school with holly, i was singing christmas songs (sans lyrics) all day. working on christmas eve was a first for me, but i guess it's just one of those things that comes with the territory. thankfully, christmas fell on a weekend--otherwise, it would have been just another normal day at the office.

tis' the season to be jolly!
i wasn't sure how i was going to handle being away from home, but thanks to supportive friends here and thoughtful family back home, i'm happy to report that it was a pretty good day.

we're not just pretending to smile: making our video helped me get in the jolly ol' christmas spirit.

don we now our gay appearal . . .
jill and i agree that christmas morning pictures are usually pretty hideous. so for obvious reasons, i'm only including one picture. and it's of jill--not me. here she is opening her packages from home. (the tv screen in the background just happens to be of our video that took all night to upload to YouTube.)

see the blazing yule before us
strike the harp and join the chorus . . .
after opening presents, we went to my apartment building where we joined our friends, jen and hannah, for a special breakfast. we had quite the spread, complete with cinnamon rolls, pancakes, fruit, eggs, and even bacon(!).

follow me in merry measure . . .
we followed highway E22 out to al gharbia to enjoy christmas dinner with frances and several of her friends from madinet zayed. while we were there, we ate, talked, celebrated, and a few folks got very, very merry.

this is a view of my salad on the table. there was really so much food, it was ridiculous. i brought 2 salads: a green salad with homemade dressing and homemade croutons and then a festive looking tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad.

while i tell of yuletide treasures . . .
getting to skype with practically everyone from my family and tell them all that has been going on lately was a highlight of the evening. thanks to frances and her kicking internet, i could actually hear and see them! (this isn't always the case--the connection in my apartment leaves much to be desired.) while we were talking, my dad, wendy, and the boys were willing to put on their new christmas outfits for me. i love it.

don't these two boys look cute in their baby kanduras?

fast away the old year passes,
hail the new ye lads and lasses.
fa la la la la la la la la.

sending you lots of hearty "la"s and even more wishes for your christmases to be happy and special and merry. i hope they are the perfect ending to your year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Greetings 2009

Merry Christmas!!

Oh how I wish I could be there with you all! Since that can't quite happen this year, please consider this my Christmas card, my homemade Christmas gift, and my Christmas presence---all wrapped into one fantastically dazzling music video.

For a better viewing experience, you might try watching Christmas in the Mid East on YouTube. The size is a little funny on the blog.

Special thanks to Jill for all of the editing!

Merry Christmas everyone. I LOVE YOU!!!

P.S. Sorry for the singing. Jill and I may not know where we're headed after Abu Dhabi, but we agree that Broadway isn't likely. The track that actually made it on the video was the best take. Guaranteed. You don't even want to know how many times we attempted to sing it. Also, FYI (just in case you couldn't tell) the last line of the chorus is "Christmas in the Mid East is a gift God wrapped in beige."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

must . must . must

without a doubt, this must . must . must be the sweetest blog post i have ever read.

for me, the hardest part of being away from home is that i don't get to share life with most of the people i love. i miss these little kiddos so much that it makes my heart hurt.

thankfully, skype helps me feel a bit closer. this is what i get to see from my side of the world. it's not the greatest picture, but it's an amazingly wonderful view.

love you.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Back from Baku

It would be good to let some of you know that I made it back to my sunny little Emirate
. . . safe
. . . in one piece (though not entirely healthy--I've got a decent head cold hanging around)
. . . thankful for the little experiences & the great relationships that made it worthwhile
. . . appreciative of the country I call home
. . . already planning my next trip.

After five days of travelating, I most definitely have a lot of blogging to do. However, don't expect too much. Well, at least don't expect too many 'original' ideas and photos:
My camera died the first day of our trip. It turns on and off just fine, but that's about it. Anything else you want to do with it--like actually take a picture or change the setting or zoom out? Nada. I'm trying not to be too upset--after all, it's just a camera, right? Hmmmm . . . Easier said than done.

Now, I recognize that I'm not always the most careful or attentive person, but the 'accident' really didn't seem to be that traumatic. Seriously, how could such a little tumble cause so much damage?
One moment it was sitting on my daypack -- the next moment it was lying on the marble floor of an abandoned and decaying Soviet ballroom. At least this time it was in its case! Maybe a few of the 'other times' when it wasn't in its case have contributed to the current problem? I'm not sure. All I know is that I will probably need to buy a new camera. Any [not too expensive] suggestions?

Back to Baku: To read about our arrival and first morning, you can go here and here or here. I've requested copies of photos from Jill and Frances; I'm sure they'll come soon. In the meantime, my goal is to use this little waiting period as an opportunity to finish [hopefully at least a few] of my many abandoned posts.


Caption: During Frances' Ultimate Frisbee game, I wandered through the grounds of a run-down university. I hadn't poked around too long before I spotted an old, ramshackle, flat-tired car. After seeing nothing but fancy cars on these slick Abu Dhabian streets for three months,
I was quite happy to see an actual 'junker.' It was a refreshing sight and consequently seemed quite picture worthy.