Category Archives: Jen

Four Photo Friday

Wow – it’s Friday again already. Boy, the weeks do pass by quickly, don’t they?
It’s been an interesting week this week and here are some photographic highlights…

Monday…our shipment arrived from China. All 173 boxes. You may remember previous posts that refer to all this stuff. While I am thankful that it all arrived safe and sound for the most part (only one broken statue so far), it’s a bit overwhelming to find a place for it all in our furnished home. Sigh. Luckily we cleared out most of our basement with our yard sale earlier this summer and so we have space down there to shove a bunch of boxes.

Who loves packing and unpacking? We do!!

Who loves packing and unpacking? We do!!

Wednesday…we picked up the RV!! Still working on a name for it and the truck. The boys are lobbying for Jabba (truck) and the Hut (RV) or, at the very least, some sort of turd-related name for the RV (if you’ve seen the movie ‘RV’ with Robin Williams you’ll get this reference). Call me crazy but I’m not really sold on either one of those options. So, if you have suggestions, please send them our way!

Bigger than a breadbox!

Bigger than a breadbox!

Wednesday early evening…ok – I’m going to break the rules just a bit an include a very short video (22 sec) to show you one of Rob’s attempts to get the RV into our driveway. Not an easy feat since our driveway is narrow and is flanked on one side by a big tree and on the other side towards the back with our hedges and house. In addition, in order to get both our RV and our car in our driveway (a requirement for the town), the RV has to be backed up almost to the door of the garage. You’ll hear some expert direction giving by me and I’ll leave it up to all of you to guess what Rob was just about to say as the video cuts off.

Thursday…Owen’s 10th birthday! Double Digits – woo hoo! One thing we did to celebrate was to go tubing on the Farmington River. We could totally relax while floating along on the calm bits of the river and had some exciting moments while shooting the rapids. Later in the day we all enjoyed Owen’s choice of a sushi dinner at Umi in West Hartford – where the food passes by on a conveyor belt and you grab what you like.

Tubing down the Farmington River in CT

Tubing down the Farmington River in CT

 

 

What do we hope the future holds?

We’ve spent some time thinking about what we want to get out of this year – what we’re looking forward to, what we hope it will be like, what we want to learn and strive for. Essentially, a vision. And as every elite athlete knows, visualizing the end result is an important part of making it actually happen. So, with that in mind, we bought some glue sticks and some inexpensive frames, ripped up a bunch of magazines and voila…

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IMG_5117  MilesIMG_5118  JenIMG_5119 Rob

Being a truck owner again

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July 30, 2014   This isn’t my first time owning a truck. Those of you who knew me way-back-when may remember “Jake”, my 1981 white Ford F150 that I drove while I lived in Atlanta. Jake used to belong to my great-Aunt Alice before I took the wheel and Jake was about as basic a vehicle as you could get – I’m talking no radio even. Despite that, we made a good (well, interesting, at least) pair cruising down Peachtree Road! And now, here I am again (as a co-owner this time) with a Ford truck in the driveway.

What a process this has been – truck-buying, I mean. I thought this might be a pretty simple task, one we could check off of our to-do list right away but….not so much. I’ll give credit right up front though – Rob did the majority of the legwork on this task. And we’re finally done – we now have a truck that can safely pull a big RV all over the country!

We looked at Chevys, Fords, Dodges and, as expected, each had their pluses and minuses. We took test drives, asked tons of questions (that clearly showed our inexperience with all things associated with hauling an RV), spent time with numerous salespeople, and surfed the web endlessly for the perfect truck. We read up on what to look for in a tow vehicle, we talked to RV salespeople, and we surfed the web some more. Who knew all the things that had to be considered? Used vs new, long bed vs. standard, crew cab vs. extended cab, diesel vs. gas, and so on. And the other thing we had to keep in mind was resale – because we’re planning on selling the truck next summer and we’re really hoping for it to hold it’s value (alas, our budget counts on it). So, that meant also considering what other people want to buy so that we can sell it quickly and for a good price.

Who knew that once we finally honed in on what we wanted, it wouldn’t be available on this side of the country? Argh. But it all turned out alright in the end and we now have a shiny, silver 2013 Ford F250 Super Duty diesel truck. Crew cab (which means the boys have a full back seat) and with spiffy running boards so that we can actually get into it without looking ridiculous.

So now we’re working on naming this  beauty of a truck b/c every big truck should have a name, right? And Rob has come through again – two good suggestions. “Burl” (or Burly) is option #1. Try to follow along while I explain…If you’ve ever watched the claymation TV Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you may remember a certain song sung by folksinger, Burl Ives. No, not ‘Holly Jolly Christmas’ – but one much more fitting for our situation… ‘Silver and Gold’.  Get it?! The truck is silver and our last name is Gold so it works, right?

Ok, so here’s choice #2.. “Vin” (or Vinnie) because it’s a diesel truck so it’s like calling it Vin Diesel, and he’s a truckish kind of dude, right?

We haven’t presented these options to the boys yet and we haven’t gotten their suggestions (which I’m sure they’ll have) so who knows what this great, silver, beast of a truck will finally be called. Feel free to give us some suggestions and I’ll keep you posted on the final decision.  🙂

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Our new truck – yet to be named

Paring down the “stuff”

July 27, 2014     So you may have read Rob’s post about all of our “stuff” and how un-like the Mongolian nomads we are. He wasn’t lying! We don’t have as much as some but, we have more than many. And, as you may know, we have a shipping container with more of our belongings sailing our way (due to arrive in August). But what you may not know is that we already have a pretty full house here in CT. A small house, by most standards, and not one with lots of extra space for more. So, what to do? Get clearing out and have another yard sale! (this would be our third since May so we’re in the groove, right?)

We waited to do this until the boys were off at camp. Mostly just because it would be an easier, quicker process with just the two of us – not b/c we were trying to sell any of their prized possessions (really!). We took three whole days to sort through the whole house  top to bottom – every room plus the garage, attic, and basement. Yes, there were some disagreements over what to keep and what to get rid of (like those old, unused in-line skates), there were some hard choices (do we keep the wedding gift platter that we’ve never used?), some sad moments (could we really say goodbye to the old, red wagon that we used to haul the boys around in when they were little?), but overall, when we were finished, we felt good – lighter and a bit freer. We even took time to admire all the space in our cleared out basement which hasn’t been that empty since we moved in to our house almost 11 years ago.

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And then we had our sale. Yes, it’s a pain to drag everything out there onto the lawn and it can get a bit tiresome to haggle over prices for hours, but it’s always fun to catch up with neighbors who stop by to say hello and meet new people who have moved into the neighborhood while we’ve been away.

And I know this sounds odd to some and rings a bell with others but, for me, it’s not always easy to get rid of things that I have emotional attachments to (maybe b/c it was given to me by someone special, purchased on a particular trip, or a remembrance of a special time gone-by). However, when I meet a person who is excited about something we are selling and who will clearly enjoy it or use it or even find a better use for it than we ever had, I always feel better about letting it go. It’s almost as if it feels right to do so. Corny sounding, I know, but it works for me.

Another added bonus…we made a bit of money. And, given that we’re both unemployed this year, the cash will certainly come in handy, right?! Actually, we had agreed that whatever money we earned would be put towards our trip to Disney in December and so after the sale I joked with Rob saying that at least now we’d be able to eat while we were there! Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe here we come!

Summoned…

5aJuly 12, 2014    So here I sit in a room in my state’s criminal courthouse. I was served a summons to appear for jury duty and I’m here now killing some time while I wait for instructions along with a quite varied group of other people who have all shown up to the courthouse with summons in hand.

As I’ve mentioned jury duty to people, I have often received suggestions for how to get out of it and sure, there is a little part of me that doesn’t want the inconvenience of it possibly interfering with our existing summer plans, but there is a bigger part of me that feels that it is my duty to show up and serve. And somehow it seems fitting to do so now that I am living back in America full-time.

Brief time later….

So the judge just spoke to us and she acknowledged that it was a gorgeous Friday in July and that she knew that most people were wishing they were anywhere but here. And that’s when she said something that struck me. She said that many of the people in this room would not have even been eligible to serve, let alone considered worthy jurors, in the not so distant past and that we should remember that people had fought for that important right. And you know what, as I looked around, I think she’s right.

So, now I’m kind of liking the prospect of being chosen, of being a part of something bigger than myself. Yes, I still have to admit that I hope that if I’m called, it won’t be a time frame that messes up our plans and that the trial doesn’t go on for too long, but there’s a part of me that hopes that I do get to be a part of this process. I know it’s not a perfect process and that it does not always run as it was intended to, and I am probably showing a certain naiveté but, you see, I’ve just come from another place where things are run very, very differently and I’m glad to be from a country that holds as a part of its values a just legal system.

Bit later still…

Well, a little while ago I got called into a courtroom along with some other potential jurors, heard a brief explanation of the case and the names of people involved and a potential timeframe for the case. We then had a chance to complete a form listing any conflicts we saw. There weren’t really any big ones for me. And yet, I was one of the first three people to get dismissed – not even questioned at all by the lawyers! And I wonder…why not me? Was it my job? My gender? My age? That’s about all the information they had on me and yet it was a quick decision for them. Oh well, I guess I’ll just never know. I have to admit, I felt a tiny bit disappointed to be dismissed so quickly though it was nice to leave early on this beautiful day. And overall, I also have a sense of satisfaction at playing my part in this process and fulfilling one of the few obligations asked of us as Americans.

 

Moving? Tips from a survivor…

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Our living room in the midst of our pack-out

June 30, 2014     As I said in a previous post, leaving our home (for the past seven years) in China was an experience filled with an amazingly long list of things to do and a multitude of emotions. However, that process is now over. We said our goodbyes, took our photos, did many of the “lasts” on our list, took care of finances, insurance needs, police checks, selling our car and then watched the movers neatly pack up our lives into big brown boxes and put them on a truck to be shipped to the other side of the world. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share some things I learned along the way – things that I’ll plan to keep in mind for our next move – and things that possibly could be helpful to anyone else planning a big move in the future. In no particular order…

Pace yourself and start early! In fact, start much earlier than you think you need to. I started with clearing things out in our house bit by bit way back in Feb, which helped enormously. However, I didn’t anticipate how much stuff I wanted to go through in my office and found myself hurriedly sorting through files and packing boxes that just barely made it on the truck, all while fighting some sort of stomach bug. Which brings me to the next point…

Try to stay healthy. For me, getting enough sleep and eating well are two of the biggest factors that affect me in terms of fending off illness. Regular exercise helps too, though I always find that the hardest to keep up. Simple ideas but they’re much easier said than done when there is so much to do and not enough time to do it in. And besides taking care of your body…

Figure out what helps you manage your stress. Is it taking a short walk in the evening? Keeping up with your fitness routine? Talking with a friend? A good foot massage? Screaming into a pillow? Meditation? Taking a hot bath? Whatever works for you, plan to do it on a regular basis and start before things really start piling up.

Get ‘business’ cards made with your new address, email, phone numbers, Skype/Instagram account names, etc. It makes things easier when you are saying goodbye to people to just whip out a handy dandy card with all your details.

In some way, let the important people in your life know what they have meant to you. It may be a while til you see them again (if you are able to see them again) and, in my mind, the relationships we have in our lives are some of the most important things to honor. It could be a short note, a party, time spent doing something together, or just a heartfelt conversation, but however you do it, I doubt you’ll regret taking a little time to do so. (Side note: this is an important thing for kids to do, too, but they may need a bit of support in figuring out the best way to do this.)

Try out an app like Trello that lets you organize projects and collaborate with others. A friend/colleague of mine introduced me to this (thanks, Rob C!) and this allowed Rob (my husband) and I to both have access to the same ‘to-do’ list. We could add items, see what was being worked on and who was working on it, and move them to our ‘completed’ list when finished.  It definitely helped a lot to make sure important things didn’t get missed and that work wasn’t duplicated.

Create a planning calendar for the last few months. If you have kids, involve them too. Find out what kinds of things everyone would like to try to do before leaving (eat at a favorite restaurant, see that famous site you’ve put off seeing for years, plan birthday parties, sleepovers). It’s amazing how fast those weekends get booked up in the last few months before leaving. It’s also important to realize that, despite your best intentions and planning, you still probably won’t get everything on the list done, which leads to my last thought…

Be kind to yourself and to your family members. Lives are in flux, emotions may be running high, the house is a mess, time is short, and everyone is just doing their best. It won’t all go smoothly, there will surely be hiccups along the way, you’ll forget to do something and want to just kick yourself, your spouse will forget something and you’ll want to kick him/her (figuratively, of course!), but soon it will all be over. One way or another, you’ll all be on a plane and what got done, got done, and what didn’t, didn’t. And, amazingly, life will go on and it will all be ok.

And so with that bit of closure, it’s time to look ahead to the next chapter. But, lucky for me, before that happens we have summer! You see, if you work in a school, at the end of the school year you are given the gift of time – time to relax, to recharge, to think, to do things you’ve been meaning to do, (and yes, time to feel guilty about the things you meant to do but didn’t), to plan ahead for next year, to learn something new, to see friends and family, and to break away from your typical routine. All this is much needed right now!

I know that many of the people reading this have gone through similar transitions so if you have some tips/suggestions to add – things that worked for you – please do!! I’d love to hear them b/c as you know, we’ll be in transition mode again one short year from now. OMG!!!!

To post or not to post…is that the question?

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One great leap into the blogosphere!

(Beijing, June 6, 2014) Well, no, that really isn’t the question. You see, I’m committed to posting on this blog. I think it’s a good idea – it will be a great way to record and reflect on our journey, and well, since we’re telling Miles and Owen that they have to post on their blogs, I can’t really not post on mine, right?

So, ok, I’m going to post. But now the question becomes what to post. And this question has actually been stressing me out. (Granted, in the course of moving our lives from China back to the US, there are a lot of things currently stressing me out and this probably doesn’t even make the top 10 but still, I’ve got to post about something here and blogging about my to-do list just seems like the wrong way to go).

You see, I’m what you might call a reluctant blogger – a person who is a bit private (which may surprise some who know me), a person who doesn’t always find the writing process a lovely cakewalk, and a person who can sometimes overthink things a bit. Not a combination that screams ‘blogger extraordinaire.’ I am just much more comfortable connecting with people in person. That way I can convey what I want to say with not just my words but also my tone of voice, my expressions, and yes, my hand gestures. Equally important, I can read a person’s understanding, mood, and interest level when we are face to face and make adjustments as needed. Blogging somehow makes me feel a bit uncertain and disconnected.

However, a friend recently sent me a link to this blog post written by a guy who lived with his family in China for 7 years and then moved back to the East Coast of the US (sound familiar? Yes, same as us!) http://www.thecultureblend.com/?p=1383 . When I read it for the first time, I thought ‘this is the kind of post that I’d like to write.’ Some of you may have seen it because I think it’s made the rounds on the FB pages of many people living overseas. If you haven’t seen it and you live or have ever lived overseas, it’s worth a read. It describes aspects of what it is like to leave a country you have made your home in for many years and well, since I’m right smack dab in the middle of that, it certainly resonates with me and others I know. On top of that, it’s amusing and has some useful things to consider.

So, to get to that point I guess I’m going to be working on getting over my reluctance to share my musings, my happenings, even my frustrations online. I’m going to find the balance between too many of those let-me-share-my-every-moment-every-passing-thought-every-opinion kind of posts that drive me a bit crazy and my typical style of posting on FB once or twice a year (which of course means that few people know where you even are, let alone what you’ve been up to). I’m going to have confidence that our travels and lifestyle in this next year will be interesting enough for people to want to read about. I’ll probably write a lot of drafts. And who knows? Maybe I’ll even love writing by the end of this next year.

If you want to let me know what you’re interested in hearing about on this blog, I’m all ears! I think some of you will be looking for the US travelogue that will develop as we travel, some will want to hear about ‘educating on the road’, some will want to hear about how life overseas compares with life in the US and how that ‘reverse culture shock’ goes for us, and I’m sure that some of you will just be checking in to see that we’re still sane and that no one has been left on the side of the road somewhere. But, what intriguing aspects of our Gold Family Roadtrip have I missed that you want to hear about? Do tell!

Time to Say Goodbye

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Going overboard with the photo memories?

(Beijing, May 5, 2014) I was just telling a friend the other day… “I like this life that we have here.” And I meant it – it’s a good life that we’ve been living here in Beijing. 7 years of this good life. Sure, it has its ups and downs, just like life anywhere. But I choose to focus on the positive – we have fulfilling jobs and a nice home, our kids are happy in school and have had excellent teachers and good friends, we have been able to travel widely in China and Asia and see some amazing things, and maybe most important of all, we have (and have had over the years) friends and colleagues that have added something very special to our lives.

But, now we’re getting ready to say goodbye to this life. We’re ready to go and yet I can’t help but feel a little sad about leaving. Ok, more than a little – a lot. Pretty much I’m a lot of emotions bundled up into one right now. Because you see, we aren’t just saying goodbye to this great life we’ve been living, we are also launching ourselves into uncharted territory. We are going to embark on a year-long adventure. A family gap year, you might say. Our plan is to take a year off from work and school and travel across the US. We’re soon going to buy an RV (even though we’ve never driven or spent a night in one in our lives – call us crazy maybe?) and take off on the open road.

You see, while we’ve lived this great life overseas, our kids have been growing up here – away from their home country, their relatives, their culture. Of course, we have had summers in the US packing in as much family time, American culture, time with friends, shopping for supplies, and oh yeah, some relaxing here and there as well as we could in 6 short weeks. We were also usually home in the US for winter break as well. But, at this point, our children have lived longer overseas than in the US. And we feel that it’s time to reconnect. Time to spend more than a few weeks with family, time to get a sense of the amazing country we are from, time to take a breather from this (pretty cool and great) life that we live day in and day out and sit back and see what other amazing things life might have in store for us.

And this brings me back to my big bundle of emotions. I am thrilled that we have been able to create this opportunity for ourselves and so thankful that I have a husband who wants this too. But I am nervous about the unknown that lies ahead (what if we all can’t stand that much “togetherness”???). And I am excited for the endless possibilities that lie before us in this year. And not just a little overwhelmed by that too. I am unsure if the reality of it all will match the dreams we’ve been creating for the last couple of years.

Let’s not forget also, that before all that can happen, we have to sort through our entire house to determine what goes in the shipment, what gets sold, what gets donated/gifted. We have to clear that large “inbox” of things to do at work and it sure feels like time is running out quickly. We have to say our goodbyes (something I have become used to but still find painful at best), cherish time with friends, and do all of our “lasts”.

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Flower Lady Outside Capital Paradise

So what’s a person to do? Well, I have a (pretty extensive) ‘to do’ list and I try to breathe deeply and calmly a few times each time I’m looking at it. I try hard not to get so caught up in all that has to be done that I miss out on the beautiful moments that I still have here. I try to savor them, try to take a mental picture. And sometimes I take real pictures – pictures of silly things like the Watson’s Water soda water that I drink so often, of sentimental things like our white Jeep Cherokee because although it’s probably the worst car I’ve ever owned (and that’s saying something), it has gotten us to and fro in this amazing city. I take pictures of memories that span the years like the woman I have bought my scarves from in the Pearl Market for the last 7 years and the flower lady outside of Capital Paradise who always has the best smile and, of course, photos of things I don’t want to ever forget about my life here such as the faces of my friends and of my kids’ faces as they do their last performances or sporting events here at this amazing school.

What else do I do to manage my bundle of emotions? I look to the year ahead with excitement and I try to calm my fears with logic and positive thinking. I try to take time each day to do something that eases my stress just a bit and I try to spend time with the people that I will miss dearly when we are gone. I strive to be a supportive and patient wife and mother through it all (with varying degrees of success, I will confess) because it’s not just me going through all of this – it’s all of us – we’re all in this together. And as one adventure ends, so another begins for the Gold family.