Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas #1 - UAB and HHE, Yay!

It's Christmas!  For the first time this month!  I predict two more.  Actual Christmas.  And the delivery of HHE number 2.  Today, my UAB and HHE number 1 were delivered.  The UAB was packed recently, so I knew most of what was in there.  I was excited to see that I put my Wii and Wii Fit inside, in addition to my blender and all my linens.  My bed is now fully customized.  I have my memory foam and better-than-down mattress pad, 1200TC sheets, a better-than-down all season comforter, egyptian cotton blanket, and my amazing down duvet with damask stripe cover.  Plus two better-than-down pillows and two better-than-down plus memory foam pillows.  Plus my body pillow.  Plus my panda, a large stuffed animal I've had since high school.  So while my bed is overly warm and Brookstone and Macy's own my first-born, I am now sleeping in a cloud.  So wonderful.

The HHE is all from storage.  I haven't seen some of it since July 2009.  I haven't seen most of it since 2004, or even before then.  I shipped more than I needed to, with the intent of getting rid of a fair amount.  And though I've only opened about ten boxes so far today, I already have a good pile to give away and a huge trash pile.  All of this stuff needs to be inventoried, so I'm taking one box at a time and doing it right.  My spare bedroom is floor to ceiling boxes, but it's not as bad as I first thought.  The little bit I've done today has already made a huge difference.  I am appreciating how much of this is packing materials, the environmental concerns notwithstanding. 

My cats have never been happier.  Packing materials are like catnip.  They're alternating between jumping out of boxes to scare each other, purring at my side to tell me how happy they are I brought the boxes into their lives, and chasing each other through the maze that is the spare bedroom. 

What else have I discovered.  Let's see.  A gorgeous jewelry armoire I bought in 2005 and had yet to unpack.  Lots and lots of beautiful hand-hooked wool rugs from my tenure working retail.  Dozens of CDs that have yet to be imported onto this laptop, including my favorite Christmas album and three Lyle Lovett CDs I'd been looking for.  Books galore, including high school and college yearbooks, all the copies of computer magazines I wrote for in high school, the last three Harry Potters, and a bunch of unread novels.  I am really glad I switched to Kindle, though the lingering thousands of pounds of books I own still exist.  I know there are boxes and boxes of Christmas ornaments.  I worked at Hallmark for ten years, so my collection is large.  All my decorative and functional items from trips over the last ten years are in the boxes; I can't wait to see some of them!  I have an entire collection of guinea hen stoneware and related items from South Africa.  (I am somewhat obsessed with guinea hens.)  I found the few boxes of things from my grandmother when she sold her house and moved south a few years ago.  This includes an exquisite tea set; I don't yet have a safe cabinet to store the pieces in, so I only unwrapped a couple and gushed before safely storing them again.  Six million photo albums.  Stuff from my college dorms that will probably mostly get thrown away.  And many, many boxes of miscellaneous 'stuff'. 

I have been planning my dream kitchen my whole life.  Most of my dishes, glassware, serving glassware, electronics, pans, and gadgets are in HHE#2.  A few gadgets were in my UAB, which was fun.  And there's kitchenware scattered throughout HHE#1.  I'm hoping to find my silverware somewhere in there.  Haven't seen it since 2007 or so.  Not entirely sure it made it into a shipped box.  Hoping it did.  So I'm gleefully packing away the welcome kit items as my own, far superior, items arrive. 

Lots of framed photos and art are appearing, which is great.  When it all comes in I'll have a fun time hanging it all.  For now, fun to look.  I am beyond thrilled to have found a duplicate copper wall plate of the one hanging in my parent's kitchen, which I bought in Bosnia in 2001 (Erin:  Mostar).  I've always loved that very simple plate and completely forgot I bought one for myself.  A $10 purchase, but I am so excited.  Sand paintings from Lesotho.  Acrylics from a friend of my host family in Hungary.  My own attempts at artwork from elementary and high school. 

So while I'm angry at myself for shipping so much, frustrated by the small housing at post (a long story), overwhelmed by all there is to do and unpack, I'm excited.  And I have motivation to keep plugging away at it - the drawer where I'm storing my Christmas presents sent back with me by my family is currently blocked by boxes.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oops, My Bad.

My cats have been driving me crazy tonight.  Jumping on counters, jumping on the table, jumping on the stove (when it was on), jumping on the refrigerator, jumping on me and the computer.  Whining.  Crying.  Knocking over their full water bowls.  Getting into cabinets.  Biting me.  Shredding all paper in sight.  Lather, rinse, repeat. 

It didn't help that now two of my three A/C units in the kitchen/living room are not working and it's hotter than blazes in there (I really should call someone; the first one being broken didn't bother me so much...).  So I was grumpy.  And spent most of the evening yelling at them, throwing them off of me, squirting them with water (my training tool, not a medieval punishment, I promise), and just generally being disagreeable. I chalked their behavior up to punishing me for leaving for so long.  Or perhaps for leaving to go to work today.  They're cats, who knows.

Then I went to make sure their room was all set for the night.  And realized they were out of food.  Now, they had food when I left this morning, so they weren't starving.  But it still made me feel bad.  I filled their bowls, and they immediately settled down and starting gobbling up their Meow Mix.  They're quiet now.  I feel like a bad pet owner. 

Ask me if I still feel this way at 4am when they sense impending daylight (in several hours) and start meowing outside my door for their morning wet food allowance. 

I promise never to take the internet for granted again. Or at least until the next time I lose home internet.

(Written Monday night... Didn't have home internet until a few minutes ago.  Long story...)

Fair warning:  this blog is a random collection of thoughts.  I'm exhausted and jet-lagged, a dangerous combination.

I arrived home in Jeddah at 11:45 last night, after 28 hours of travel.  My very good friend L, who is from the same town as me and now lives in London, was able to get on the same flight to Heathrow as me.  So we traveled down to Boston, hung out in Logan, and then flew to London together.  That made the first 13 hours of travel a whole lot more fun!  Plus we wrangled two seats next to each other, despite the best efforts of the surly and passive-agressive American Airlines check-in agent.  About halfway through the flight we tried to figure out the last time we'd flown together.  Even though we travel together as much as possible, we usually drive or meet somewhere.  We realized it was back in 1995, when we traveled to France for three weeks for a twinning inauguration between our town and one in southern France.  Accompanied by two other close friends and three adult chaperones, we had the time of our lives on that trip!  That was actually the first flight for both of us as well as our first overseas experience.  We both got hooked.  L has lived on several continents and traveled widely, just like me.  Our friendship has endured for two decades, and we're always dreaming of our next trip.  (The current shortlist:  Morocco, India, Turkey.)

I had a relatively short layover in Heathrow (3.5 hours).  That may sound like a long time, but it can take up to two hours to transfer terminals there, so you just never know.  Luckily I had plenty of time after clearing security and airline check-in, so I had a hearty breakfast (including pork, of course) and was able to spend an inordinate amount of time (and money) at Harrod's.  More on that later.  Anyway, the next flight went smoothly, and we landed in Jeddah only a few minutes late.  I breezed through immigration and customs (thanks to our wonderful expeditor team) and was on my way home.  My driver looked at my three suitcases and just shook his head and laughed.  So, I did a little shopping in the U.S.  Mostly for foodstuffs I have a hard time getting here.  Salad dressings.  Jams.  Seasonings.  Clotted cream.  You get the idea.  I weighed my options a few days before leaving home and decided it would be about the same price to ship my purchases as to buy another suitcase and pay the extra baggage fee.  I opted for the get-it-quicker option.  And just now, when I unpacked, everything came through intact!

Ever since Hattie's untimely and tragic death, I've been overly paranoid about leaving my cats.  Even though my housekeeper comes by every day and checks in on them (she's amazing like that), I still can't help but worry.  It has nothing to do with the level of care they're getting (stupendous) but with lingering emotions from the trauma of losing Hattie the way I did.  It was really only the last few days of my holiday that I realized that the worry was weighing on me, when I started having nightmares about coming home and finding them dead.  So even though I rationally knew they were fine, I didn't really relax until I walked through the door and saw them healthy and happy.  Jeddah's airport continues to be a difficult place for me to be because of the memories of Hattie's ordeal.  And I spend a lot of time there for my job, which both helps to normalize the place and serves as a constant reminder of what happened.  It's an interesting emotional roller coaster.  I often sleep poorly after a trip to the airport.  Time heals, though, and it's getting better.  And the two furballs currently curled up on either side of me help too.

I went to sleep last night thinking about how to rearrange the furniture in the guest bedroom so as to maximize space.  This morning I walked in the room to look at the dimensions and found that my housekeeper had already moved the furniture into the exact configuration I'd been thinking about.  We never talked about this.  I think she can read my mind :-).

And now back to Harrod's.  I knew when I planned this trip home that I would be spending Christmas away from my family for the first time ever.  So while I soaked up family and holiday spirit while home, I also apparently decided that Christmas was going to come to me.  I ordered my first artificial tree (which may not make it here until after Christmas) and several LED candelabras, bought decorations for my office (glittery penguins, a camel, and a flamingo - because they're pretty), ordered a fruitcake and familiar Christmas goodies, and bought traditional mince pies at Harrod's.  I didn't expect the sweets to arrive so soon, but I picked up my fruitcake this afternoon.  It's in the freezer; I'll take it out when I'm needing a holiday pick-me-up in a few weeks. 

That's my random blog post of the day.  I've had a VERY busy and somewhat stressful week, although fruitful in many ways as well.  My UAB and the first of my HHE shipments are being delivered tomorrow, insha'allah.  Of course this isn't the fun HHE shipment but rather the random one from storage.  But I do get to see what has been in storage for up to 10 years...