Saturday, December 29, 2012

One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

Today was definitely a two steps back kind of a day. After traveling 11 hours home and getting in after midnight last night, I was up bright and early unpacking and doing laundry. Since the realtor comes in the morning to lot the house, I had TONS to do to get it more presentable. I chose to tackle our master closet first. I have been working on this plan in my head about how I should handle our clothes until we leave. You wouldn't believe that this would be such an issue, but planning for 5 people is pretty huge. I decided if I could get my closet totally emptied, I would have enough room to put in place this laundry basket system that I wanted to try. Basically everyone as 2 laundry baskets for clean clothes until we leave. One basket will contain school/work clothes and the other is for PJ's and "home" clothes. It worked out pretty well except Susanna and I ended up needing 4 baskets instead of 2, I was able to get a system set up and do tons of sorting of other clothes to be packed and sent to goodwill. I also started a color coded system for the movers. Green tags mean that the item(s) are going in the HHG shipment and yellow tags mean that the items are going in the UB (unaccompanied baggage) shipment. (See picture below) I feel pretty good about that accomplishment, but there still so much to do. Next stop....craft room!

Remember I mentioned how we had found a home for little Max? Well, here is my "two steps back" moment today. I guess the family that adopted him from us felt hat he was a little more responsibility than they had bargained for. I'm still really not sure about that, but nevertheless, Max is back with us tonight and I have to start all over again for a home for a home for him. The kids were pretty good about him coming back. Of course they were so happy to see him, but I took several opportunities to remind them that he is only ours again temporarily.

They have honestly been such good sports about this whole moving process. Their flexibility and willingness to accept change is really inspiring. I know they can't fathom how extreme of a move this really is, but they are still just taking everything in stride. I'm really so proud of them.

Hopefully tomorrow (actually today because I asleep writing this last night) will be a huge leap forward. We have some interest in the Camry and the realtor is coming list the house. I am praying that she has some leads on families that may be interested in it. Selling/renting the house and Camry will take a million pounds of pressure off of us and we may actually enjoy these last 28 days. Who am I kidding? No one says "move to a new country" and "enjoy" in the same sentence.

Friday, December 28, 2012

We are going to Japan!!

I've struggled getting started telling our story about our journey to Japan because I really couldn't decide if I wanted to create a new blog to chronicle our adventure or if I wanted stick with the blog that I already started. I decided that since this move is going to take over just about everything about life as I know it, one less "new" thing to manage was probably the best idea. So here we go.....

We are on day 24 of our 56 day countdown until we arrive at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, Japan. My plan is to catch up on the highlights of the last 24 days, and then keep as much of a daily report as possible. I have really enjoyed following the blogs of those who have already made this journey, so I hope someone may find our story helpful too!

Day 1 (December 3rd) - I am going to count day one as the day that I received the job offer, but perhaps day one was really the day that I interviewed for the position in Yokota. Even though it was only one week earlier, the 7 days that I waited to find out if I was going to be offered the job seemed like about about 7 years! I interviewed on a Monday evening, and knew by Friday afternoon that I was down to the final two for the selection. I felt like I had a decent chance at that point, but actually landing the job seemed WAY too good to be true. It has been my dream to travel and live overseas for as long as I can remember, so being so close to seeing that dream realized was almost more than I could imagine. Steven and I have played out possible scenarios about how we may eventually be able to make it happen, but getting the job with DoDEA really opened up our possibilities. So back to day 1, I was working on my computer at home while Steven, the kids, and I were all watching The Voice when the email offer come in. After the fog clears and we got a hold of our excitement, I signed the offer and sent a thank you email for my selection to my new bosses! They each quickly returned an email letting me know that they were happy that I accepted and they were looking forward to my arrival in Japan. Let me say that again, " MY arrival in Japan!". It still hasn't really all soaked in. This was a moment that I will always remember though. I knew right then that the course of my life had changed. Whatever path I had been on was going to different. I looked at my kids and Steven and felt completely filled with excitement, anxiety, joy, and fear all at the same time. I knew that just as my future was about to change, so was theirs.

Days 2-14 were filled with what felt like us making 100 decisions a day and realizing that EVERYTHING was waiting in my orders to be official. The crazy part was that each time we made a choice on something it seemed to only create 5 more questions to be answered or choices to be made. Here are some of the things we were having to make choices about: (Note: We are on day 24 still don't have final answers on everything.)
• Do we sell or rent the house?
• Do we take or leave the dogs?
• Does Steven come with the kids and I or delay his travel?
• When do we sell the cars?
• What furniture do we take?

In addition to our choices on this side, we were also having to learn at a rapid pace what our new life was going to be like in Japan. Thankfully my new coworkers reached out and started emailing me and sending lots of very helpful information about housing, transportation, travel, and the pet policies. The tough part at this point was the time difference between us and Japan to get information. If I had a question at 9am, I had to wait until 6pm for an answer. As I am writing this, I realize that that really isn't am unreasonable amount of time and wondering how int he works people made these moves 20 years ago when there was no email? At any rate, it seemed like a long time at the moment probably because of the domino effect that each piece of new information had. For example, when we found out the size of our housing there, we then had to consider all the furniture that we have here and decide what we store, ship, and sell. All of this while we are still managing 3 kids, full time jobs, dance rehearsals, Girl Scout meetings, and Tae Know Do practices.....oh, and not to forget Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, and preparing for the trip that we had already planned to spend Christmas in Louisville.

Day 15- My ORDERS CAME! Now it is official. Although we had already started selling some of our furniture in preparation, and EVERY conversation that I was having at home or work involved our move to Japan, somehow I didn't really believe it was going to happen until it came in black and white! I didn't even want anyone to know beyond my close friends and family....just in case they decided to take it back. I really couldn't (and still struggle to) believe that I have been blessed with this amazing opportunity. An opportunity that so many others will still only dream about. But now I have the paperwork to prove that I did it...I got the job in Japan. They liked me enough to take the chance to fly me, my 3 kids, my husband, and (hopefully) even our dog (more on that story later) to live and work in Japan. As a friend of mine said so perfectly days after I accepted the job, "You have just been given the keys to a new life!"

I got my orders about 2 hours before my Christmas Party with my Girl Scout troop, so I figured now was as good as time as any to break the news to the 12 girls and their families in my troop. They were all very excited for us, and two moms even stepped up to serve as the leaders of the troop after I leave. That was a huge relief! I was worried about leaving my sweet co-leader with ll the responsibility half way through the year...and the month before cookie season.

When we got home free the party, Steven and I decided to post identical Facebook announcements simultaneously. We spent the next hour so enjoying the surprised and congratulatory comments from our friends and family near and far.

Day 16- With my orders in hand, my next order of business was scheduling our travel (ugghhh...another 40 questions) and the packing and shipping of our household goods (a.k.a. what the military calls EVERYTHING you own).

Day 17- Official Government Passport Day for Steven and the kids! i met Steven and the kids at the travel office on Fort Stewart for their appointment. After talking with the lady that requests the passports from the State Department, we found out that their is a very slim chance that they will get them back in time for my report date. We decided at that point to delay our flight ( which caused another whole domino effect) until the last possible day before my report date to give them more time to arrive. The lesson I learned here is that they could have requested their official passports with only my offer letter...they didn't have to have my orders. Had we had that information, we could have made the appointment a whole week sooner. So now, we have all 50 of our fingers crossed that they come in time for us to travel together. She submitted our travel itinerary and odors with my report date so hopefully that is enough to get them moved closer to the top of the pile.

Once we changed out travel date, we then had to change the three different dates that I had scheduled to have our HHG (house hold goods) packed and picked up. A short stop in another office and 45 minutes later, we had it fixed. Now we have pack out dates and a tentative travel itinerary (which includes a 14 hour and 15 minute flight from Atlanta to Tokyo...can you say hell on Earth with 3 kids under 10?) Its time to get serious and accept that we are leaving the country....right after Christmas of course!

Days 18-19 were spent trying to accomplish things 8 things in 48 hours: (1) sort and organize the kids clothes, (2) clean out the kids closets and prepare their rooms to be packed, (3) list all items from the kids rooms on the Richmond Hill Facebook virtual yard sale page that I thought would sell quickly, (4) clean out the downstairs coat/everything else that can get crammed in that no one wants to put away closet, (5) pack for trip to Louisville, (6) get boys' hair cut, (7) visit Santa at the mall, (8) shop for and wrap Christmas gifts for Steven, (9) pack the car so all we have to do is hop in and drive 10 hours when Steven gets home. Somehow I managed to get it all done and get a few hours of sleep before we left for Louisville.

Days 20-24 were a really nice break from all the madness of working, packing, planning, and stressing about moving. We had a perfect Christmas with Steven's side of the family and were even able to meet up with some friends of ours that were stationed at Fort Stewart several years ago. I was almost able to forget that we are on the verge of relocating to the other side of the planet....almost! We did take the opportunity, with our heads a little less cluttered, to ,ale more lists of things that we have to do and even apply for some jobs for Steven.

Riding home now, it is ever more clear that our time in the good 'ol USA is coming to an end. Our upmost priority in the coming days is to prepare our car and house to be sold. The house being the biggest pebble in our shoe at the moment. We DO NOT want to go to Japan with the burden of having to continue to make the house payment as Steven will not be working right away. There are so many moving pieces in the puzzle right now that I just have to give it over to God and have faith that the right family will come along and need our house as much as we need to get rid of it.

Well, there you have it. That is the last 24 days in a very big nutshell...probably like the nut off of one of those big Redwood trees in California!