Posts Tagged With: moving

Home

Home is a funny concept. For (I’d venture to say) most people, it is fairly simple. For everyone, it is ideally a significant source of comfort and identity; a collage of memories of time, place, and people which centers you. Home gives you a sense of who you are and who you’ve been, maybe even who you’ll be. It encases a world that is purely yours. For much of my life, home has been quite complicated.

My first home was in New Jersey, although I have no memory of it, as we moved to Virginia when I was an (adorable) two-year-old. My parents bought a house in the suburbs, where I lived for the next 13 years. In that house, I lived the happiest of childhoods: wrestling as Pokemon characters with my father and younger brother; playing with frogs at the creek behind our yard; and having Easter egg hunts, trick-or-treating, and waging stink-bomb wars with the neighborhood children. When I was 11, my parents decided to separate, and I’ll never forget the time they sat us down on our old couch to give us the news.

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After that moment, home became more complex. My mother moved out and into a fairly rough apartment complex in the city. In the afternoons after school and weekend days we spent with her, I came to love it there. I remember my father’s reaction when I told him that I didn’t have a home anymore, since I now had two houses, each with one of my parents. Nonetheless, we made new memories in our new home and our old one. While I was introduced to violence, racism, and poverty in that apartment complex, my experience there imprinted me in a way I cannot separate from who I am today.

A few years later, as a freshman in high school, I watched both of my parents remarry. My mother moved in with her new husband and my brother and I struggled to feel at home in his house, despite his initial attempts to welcome us. My father then moved with my stepmother into a beautiful log-cabin style house on a dirt road in the outskirts of town. Neither place really felt like home, or at least they don’t now, as I look back on what was only a few years of my life. Those houses didn’t last long, as my mother divorced her second husband, and my father and stepmother moved yet again; this time into a bigger house with more land to suit their growing family (I now have two beautiful half-sisters).

Within the next few years, my Dad dropped me off at the University of Mary Washington, my new home for the next 4 years. In that time, I met some amazing people and learned a lot about myself. I survived living in a house with 5 other women, and made some incredible memories with them on our picturesque campus. A little over an hour away from my hometown, I was able to develop my independence while still being close enough to home to come and visit over the holidays.

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While traveling with the debate team in college, I met my husband. I knew that he was a big deal, but I had no idea that he would change my life as I knew it. After graduating from UMW, I moved with Casey to Pensacola, FL. Saying goodbye to my family and friends was really difficult, but I was excited about the adventures Casey and I had in store for us.

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In our 900- square foot home in Pensacola, Casey and I learned a lot about each other. Within a few months of living there, the Marine Corps promptly sent Casey to San Diego for a temporary assignment while he was awaiting flight school. I have never cried the way I did when I put Casey on that plane out of Pensacola, as for the first time in my life, I was entirely alone. Except for Barley, our 4-month-old beagle mix, I did not know anyone in that part of the country. I had to learn to get around the city, find a job, and start a life on my own.  Barley and I enjoyed walks along the bayou each night, and I came to love our new little home. Within weeks I found a job and was on my way to independence. When Casey came home, I felt complete. Then we moved again.

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After 9 months in Pensacola, we moved an hour north to Milton, Florida. We adjusted quickly to our new home, painting and unpacking in record time. Barley loved his new backyard, and we adopted our cat from beneath a dumpster near the house. After another 9 months, it was time to pick up and move again. Casey and I got engaged, and then headed to Texas! We spent the next year in Corpus Christi, where we planned our wedding, bought cowboy boots, got married, and then prepared for our move across the world! Corpus Christi never really felt like home to us, as we did not plan to be there long and Casey moved to North Carolina for training during our time there. While I came to enjoy parts of living in Texas, it always felt like a place in between homes (although it will always be the place where Casey and I said our wedding vows).

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After 6 months apart, Casey in NC and I in Texas, we were reunited right before we picked up and moved across the world: to Okinawa, Japan. In our concrete tower apartment on a military base, we have adjusted to life overseas, with Casey traveling the world while I hold down the fort at home. Making Okinawa home has not been easy. There is no Target to run to when I need affordable window treatments, and I can’t just pick up the phone to call family back in the states. After about 6 months of life overseas, I started to feel like I needed more, that I was missing out on all the action back in America. Fortunately, I had the perfect opportunity to come back to the states, as 2 of my best friends were getting married.

A month ago, I boarded a big plane in Naha and headed for home. America. I’ve seen about half of my favorite people in the world, eaten at all the requisite American restaurants, enjoying such quintessential comfort foods as sweet tea, Vermont maple syrup, potato salad, and black bean soup in a bread bowl at Panera (about 10 times). I’ve been to Target, Old Navy, Walmart, Michael’s, PetSmart, H&M, you name it. I’ve spent time in Vermont, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Needless to say, it has been a busy month.

I stopped by the last home I lived in with my family, and felt empty when I saw someone else’s car in the driveway. I walked around the campus at Mary Washington, and realized that I’m not the only one who’s changed. My hometown, Richmond, is not the same place it once was. While I have enjoyed my time here, spent with the people I love, I have realized how lucky I am. I miss my home, my husband, my sweet dog and cat, my friends, my daily routine, all of it. I thought that I belonged to Virginia, to Mary Washington, to America. This time here has shown me that what I thought of home was too complicated.

Home doesn’t have to be where you go after a long shift at work. It’s not where you cook dinner, or go to sleep at night. Home is where you love. Where you love your family, and the sunrise, where you love yourself. The location will change. You will change. And that’s ok, because home is where your life is. Every place you call home becomes a part of you, but you make it home. My home is over 10,000 miles away, and I just can’t wait to get back there and fall in love with it all over again.

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You can’t always choose where you land, but wherever your life is, love it.

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Categories: Family, Friends, Military Life, Moving, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Our First Year of Marriage

One year ago today, I married my best friend. He is busy flying planes in a land far away from here right now, but that gives me the opportunity to reminisce when I would otherwise be snuggling with him in front of our wedding video. In the year that we have been married, much has changed. It has been by far the most difficult year of my life, and I am lucky that I can say it has also been the best. This was our year:

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On February 18, 2012, we got married in a beautiful outdoor ceremony near Corpus Christi, Texas. Our wedding went by in a whirlwind, but the important part is that I woke up the next morning beside my husband and we began our adventure together. At the time, we were living in Corpus Christi while Casey went through the multi-engine portion of flight school, and I worked for a local staffing firm.

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Several weeks after our wedding, Casey received the lovely golden wings he had worked so hard for, and then he went off to California for two weeks of survival training. Shortly after that, he moved to New Bern, North Carolina, for the final stage of flight training (this time in a simulated C-130).  I did not accompany Casey to North Carolina because the military would not pay for us to move there, I wanted to continue working at my job, and we had recently learned we would be moving to Okinawa. While the Marine Corps had separated Casey and I before, the pain of saying goodbye to him and remaining behind was something I was somehow unprepared for. I was lucky to have kind and generous co-workers; but being only recently married, I was mostly isolated from the military community. It was a trying time for both of us, and I was forced to learn many new things I would have avoided had I had the choice. I did not enjoy caring for the lawn, repairing my car when it broke down, running Barley and Hops to the emergency vet when they consumed poison or got stung by scorpions, or dealing with our neglectful landlord when our AC and appliances broke. I’d like to think that all of that and the sushi dates I had with myself made me a stronger person; but I would be entirely dishonest if I said that I enjoyed the overall experience.

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I was able to visit Casey once in the lovely little town of New Bern, where they have these adorable bears all over town. In August, Casey and I began our Farewell America tour. We had already said goodbye to my friends and family in Virginia; so this time we met in Vermont, where we spent some wonderful time with my family. Saying goodbye to my father and baby sisters was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

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From there, we flew down to New Bern and packed Casey’s things into Brandy (his precious Mazda Speed 3), and headed home to Corpus Christi. We stopped in Meridian, Mississippi, to visit some of our awesome jet pilot friends before we made it back to Corpus. We spent a week or so there, moved out of our home, and packed our fluffy children into the car. You’ve already heard of our road trip to San Diego to say goodbye to Casey’s family, followed by our trip to Seattle and then epic plane ride to Okinawa. Long story short: we moved across the planet. Nbd.

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Once in Okinawa, we lived in a hotel for a week (separated from Barley and Catbeast), then moved into our concrete palace in a tower on Camp Kinser, in the southern part of Okinawa. It took awhile for our belongings to arrive, (most of which will remain in storage in Texas until we return to the US) but we have done our best to make Okinawa home. I’ve been adjusting to life here and trying to figure out in which direction to take my career. Casey has enjoyed flying the C-130, and has already had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii, mainland Japan, Thailand, Korea, the Philippines, and the Marshall Islands. I miss him while he is gone, but I am so proud of all his hard work and am so happy to see him finally reaping its rewards. In between those trips, we’ve tried to take advantage of his free time to explore the wonderful food and beautiful sites Okinawa has to offer. I promise that more on that will come in the next few weeks.

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Spending holidays, birthdays, and an anniversary apart has been difficult, but I never take our time for granted. The little moments that we share cooking dinner together, watching him wrestle with Barley and Hops, exploring this wonderful island together: all of these I have an acute appreciation for, knowing the feeling of a cold bed and an (almost) empty home. Marriage is not easy, and we have much to learn about how to deal with such important issues as cold feet in the bed and where exactly we should place our wet towels. I’m just lucky that I have Casey to share this amazing, at times chaotic, life with. I am sure we will continue to face obstacles in the years ahead, but I know that together (or not), we will make it through this adventure and come out stronger and more prepared for the next one. Happy anniversary, babe.

Always, Amanda

Categories: Marriage, Military Life, Our Story | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Our Subtropical Winter

Alright. It has been over 2 months since I have updated you all on my life. I watched the days turn into weeks and then months, and have now learned my lesson. I have so much to say that it is difficult to say it all without scaring you away. I’ll attempt to summarize the last two months as briefly as I can, and I’ll save some of the better stories for later posts. 😉

In late November, we finally received our shipment of household goods. After 5 moves in less than 3 years, we have become quite efficient at unpacking. (It also helped that we left most of our belongings in storage). Two months later, I am still working on making our apartment feel more like home.
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After unpacking, I launched into Thanksgiving preparation. This was my first Thanksgiving away from family, and I was determined to try and make up for that by cooking my first Thanksgiving feast. With Casey’s help (on the meat portions), I cooked a turkey, mashed potatoes and 2 types of gravy, rolls, cornbread muffins, 2 types of stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and 2 pies.  It felt like a rite of passage into womanhood to pull that off, but I was exhausted and learned a lot about what not to do when cooking for 10+ people. It was wonderful to share the holiday with friends, but it was no substitute for hearing my baby sister say Grace back home.

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At the beginning of December, Barley gave me quite the scare. I came home one Saturday afternoon to find him shaking all over and lethargic. Getting him to a vet was a terrifying experience, as there was no one on base to see him. After multiple phone calls to vets out in town who repeatedly hung up on me because of the language barrier between us, I was able to get him to a vet clinic that could see him, where a fraction of the vet’s explanation was translated to me. Multiple appointments, many steroids,  and over a month later, Barley is fine. With Casey out of town, I could not have gotten through that experience without the support of a few friends out here and the kindness of the employees at the vet clinic who tried their best to communicate with me.

On the note of Casey being out of town, he has had a number of trips to mainland Japan, Hawaii, and Korea. His flights are more and more exciting, and he is truly loving his job. While I enjoy having him home with me, I am tremendously happy to see him finally reaping the rewards of all his (continued) hard work!

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In between Casey’s trips, we have enjoyed his days off for the holidays.  While again this has been our first Christmas away from family, we did our best to bring Christmas to Okinawa. The Okinawans have a fun conception of Christmas, which involves the quintessential bright lights, albeit in pinks, blues, and yellows. While most of the material components to Christmas were present, it did not quite feel like Christmas in the 70-degree weather or in our fairly empty apartment. It was still wonderful to share our first Christmas as a married couple together. We spent the morning opening our gifts and skyping with family, and then dove back into cooking a Christmas feast for a few of our friends out here. (This time we went for an easier menu). 😉

This month, we enjoyed a fun celebration of the New Year with our new found friends, and even had a visit from a good friend from the states, Farrah! I have been taking a Japanese class, and am fully enjoying my little interactions with the Okinawan people as I slowly learn the language. We look forward to all the new adventures 2013 will bring us!

In between those holidays and everything else I have left out, Casey and I have spent as much of our time as possible exploring everything this wonderful little island has to offer. In the coming weeks I will go over everything from delicious local food to underground caves, from aquarium visits to creepy tombs and beautiful castles…

I hope that all of you enjoyed your holiday season, wherever you are in the world.

Love always, Amanda

Categories: Barley, Moving, Okinawa Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Our Journey to the East

Before I detail what we have been up to here on Okinawa, I thought I would recount the tale of how we arrived.

Some time before our wedding this past February, Casey was notified that we would be relocating to Japan. I had known it was a likely option for us, but nonetheless I was not prepared for the phone call I received from Casey while on my lunch break one day. Before this, I had never traveled outside of the US, except for a cruise to the Bahamas and a short drive to Canada for ice cream. I had always wanted to travel, but the idea of moving to another continent for 3 years was hard to swallow at first. (It did, however, validate our decision to get married when we did!) When Casey told me we would be moving to Japan, I was not sure what to say. I didn’t want to disappoint him or let him know how genuinely scared I was. I wanted to be strong and get through the rest of my day at work without any angry, crying outbursts.

In that endeavor, I was successful. I went back to work and told my boss I would be able to work there for another 6 months; and then I put the impending move out of my mind as much as possible. This was not difficult, as I was a month out from our wedding, and was more than preoccupied with that. We got married on a beautiful, windy day in February; and I found myself overwhelmed by the thought of saying goodbye to all the people we love, as this was the last time we would see many of them for years.

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Over the following weeks, Casey went off to California for SERE (“survival school”), and then he moved to North Carolina for the final stage of his flight training for the C-130, while I stayed back in Corpus Christi. During our 5-month separation, Casey and I split up the laundry list of hoops we would need to jump through to get to Okinawa. This included getting official passports, medical and dental clearances, immunizations, anti-terrorism training, selling some of our belongings, and preparing for essentially 3 separate moves. (We had 2 shipments to send to Japan, and one to put in storage for 3 years). In addition to all of this, the most difficult part of the process was getting our dog and cat, Barley and Hops, eligible for transport to Japan. This involved microchips, multiple rabies vaccinations, blood tests sent to DOD laboratories, health certificates and more paperwork than I would care to list on here. I can tell you that I will never again attempt a vet appointment with a dog and a cat in the passenger seat of a Mazda Miata.

After a long separation, Casey and I were reunited in August, when we continued our goodbye tour on a trip to see my family in Vermont. Saying goodbye to them was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I had already been separated from friends and family for 2 years at this point, but moving to another country felt for just a minute like the end of the world. We flew from there back to New Bern, NC, to move Casey out of his apartment and begin our road trip back to Corpus Christi. We stopped in Meridian, MS, to say goodbye to friends, and then spent 2 weeks together in Corpus preparing for and executing the move.

While we have moved 4 times in the last 2 years, this was by far the most stressful. Armed with my massive spreadsheets of everything we own and donuts to keep the movers productive, I managed to survive 5 days of different movers in and out of our house. Our last night in Corpus Christi was spent in a hotel, eating take-out from our favorite restaurant in town. I had said several tearful goodbyes with my co-workers and friends there and Casey had finished his massive check-out process on base, leaving us with nothing left but to toss the animals into our packed out car and say a bittersweet goodbye to Corpus Christi.

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Of course, we had to see the Gulf one last time (for now). From there, we headed west to San Diego, CA, to say goodbye to family and friends there. We truly enjoyed watching the landscape of America evolve as we drove, and we made a few stops along the way. However, driving with a dog and cat in tow makes road trips considerably more difficult, and we were unable to make extended stops along the way. Most of our sight-seeing was done from inside the car.

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We arrived in beautiful San Diego, and had a wonderful time with family and friends. As was the trend, it was difficult to say goodbye. From there, we headed north to Seattle, WA. The trip along the West Coast was stunning. With the mountains of California on our right and the Pacific on our left, slamming into the coast; it was a gorgeous drive. We stopped to see a few friends and family on the way in San Jose and San Francisco, and then Portland. We arrived in Seattle very late at night, carried all the animals and bags into the hotel, and promptly passed out. In the morning, Barley and Hops had their final vet appointment, and Casey and I tied up all the loose ends in our life. 😉

Unfortunately, up until this point, the military was unable to get Barley on our flight to Okinawa. After researching our options and being unwilling to fork over $3000 for someone else to accompany him there, we decided to fly separately. We purchased a ticket for Barley and I on a civilian airline, and Casey was to take Hops on board the military flight with him. My flight was set to land in Tokyo, where I would need to take Barley through customs and animal quarantine services to have him checked out and his paperwork reviewed. Casey and Hops would fly from base to base, by-passing this process. I was not confident in my ability to get through it, as I’ve been known to get lost and cry in airports. I knew I had no other options at this point, as I was not going to leave Barley behind, so I did my best to prepare myself.

The morning of our flights, I drove Casey and Hops to the airport at 4:30 am. When we approached the counter with our 5 bags + cat, we asked if they happened to have a space available for Barley, assuming they wouldn’t. When the woman told me they had someone cancel their pet’s spot last minute (and that they had not canceled my seat), I almost hugged her. She told us we had 30 minutes to get our bags and dog to the airport and on the flight! Since I had assumed I was not leaving until later that day, all of my luggage and Barley were still back at the hotel! Casey had to run back to the car, rush to the hotel, throw everything together and rush back. I stayed at the airport to guard our belongings and catbeast. We managed to get everything dropped off just in time (Barley was not happy to be left in a crate with these people), and then spent the next hour before our flight departed canceling my flight with United, turning in the rental car, and going through the box of our belongings that we had planned on mailing to ourselves but could not, as the post office is not open at 6 am (we threw away everything that did not fit in our luggage). Oh, and then we had to carry our cat through security! (Note: I do not recommend this).

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Even attempting to explain that morning is exhausting. By the time we boarded our flight, we were toast. The airline employees were wonderful, and we spent the next 12 hours drifting in and out of sleep with Hopsy sleeping in our laps. We arrived first on Yokota air base near Tokyo. We stopped for about 2 hours, during which time we were able to walk and feed a very upset Barley. We then boarded the plane again and flew another 2 hours to Iwakuni, Japan. In Iwakuni, we walked Barley again and got a bit to eat. (Our first meal in Japan was Taco Bell). 😉

Finally, we boarded the plane one last time for Kadena AFB on Okinawa! We were exhausted and ready to get there. Hops decided during this flight that she was no longer happy flying on an airplane and went potty on the floor of the bathroom. (I’ve never seen Casey so angry as when he came back to our seats covered in cat litter after 20 minutes in the bathroom). We finally arrived in Okinawa, gathered all of our huge bags and dog, and met our sponsors, the Ermises. They took care of everything from there. They took us to our hotel, dropped Hops off with a friend, and took Barley home with them. The process of flying took over 24 hours, and I have never been so tired.

In the morning, however, we woke up in paradise.

Categories: Moving, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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