Category: It’s the FS Life for Me

Affirmation: Building a Raft When We Move

Affirming our Growth, Lake Cunningham, Nassau

 

Building a RAFT

Affirmation of Relationships. . . I wrote the first of this Building a Raft When We Move series in early May, and thought I’d have a post up each week. Haha! Reality is, we’ve been living out rather than writing about the “logs” of Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewells, and Transition/Think Destination. “Building a RAFT” is a tool developed by TCK pioneer and sociologist David Pollack to help people making big transitions. I first came across this idea about two decades ago in the book Raising Resilient MKs (p. 77, aff). You can get a free e-version here!

Jean Larson describes Affirmation as “telling people what they mean to you and thanking them.” I’ve found this to be so important in my relationships and leaving process. Yet as I’ve implemented Affirmation in my transitions, it has grown to include not just the affirmation of relationships, but also an affirmation of the internal growth I’ve experienced in a place.

 

Hard Goodbyes are Good

No matter how complex the logistics of moving may be, the hardest part of moving is the changes in relationships. My first major move was from New Orleans to San Diego. It was the late ‘70s and I was only five. The hardest part of that move was saying good-bye to my grandparents, Maw Maw and Grampie. The loss was acute, and the tears flowed — and no goodbye has been as poignantly hard as that first one.

Hard goodbyes are good — they show us how dear are the people God has put in our lives.

 

Risky Relationships

It’s risky to make friends, when you know you’ll be saying goodbye. At one point in my life, I saw myself become a bit callous to new relationships, and I have seen it at times in my teens — why bother getting close, when we’re only going to leave soon? I don’t need friends. I have friends (long distance) and that is good enough for now.

I’ve even had friends tell me, “We usually don’t bother making friends with embassy families — we know they are going to be leaving soon and it is too hard.”

Even though I didn’t ever fully embraced that attitude of “not bothering” with friendships, at one point it did become my default setting. Friendships are hard. Goodbyes are hard. Let me keep the good friendships I have going through email and online groups — and just be satisfied with local acquaintances. I don’t need more friends.

Then Hubby was hired by the Department of State. While our lives had been transient before with our own adventures, the military, and as missionaries, we were entering a new phase of life that required international moves every two to three years. During our initial training in DC, one of the people God brought into my life was another FS homeschool mom, Anne. She quickly became a dear friend during that short time of six months. Something about her friendship broke through, and I realized that IRL friendships were worth the vulnerability, even when we know they will be short term.

Good relationships are never guaranteed. I totally didn’t expect the significantly close friendships I’ve had in Nassau — and they have been a gift from God.

 

Practicing Affirmation

Affirmation of the important people in your life makes the hard goodbyes more doable. For some people, I’ve written an email or a card — especially people who I don’t see frequently or have been important to my kids. But for most of my friends, it is important to me to spend one-on-one time before we go and verbally tell them what they have meant to me. The easiest way for me to do this is to invite someone to lunch or coffee, or set up time to walk together and talk. Sometimes these are “goodbye” dates as well, but primarily I focus on the affirmation of what this friend has meant to me and how God has used them in my life.

While the affirmation of key relationships is a priority, during the last few months I also purpose to affirm the people who are regular parts of my life rhythm. . . I express thanks to the cashier I see multiple times a week at my local grocery store. I tell my doctor and his staff how much I appreciate them at my final appointments. My hair stylist. The gate guards. The mail room staff. People at church. Teachers. The bank cashier. I express my thanks, convey the good things of having lived in the host country, and share what I will miss.

 

Affirmation, Not Just Relationships

When we move, I have the opportunity to reflect and affirm the growth God has brought in this place. Our tour in The Bahamas has been a crazy mix of stress, with the opportunities to let go and rest in the Lord.

Seriously, I’m thankful for the liquid xanax of seeing the clear blue water every day. I’m thankful for the slower pace of life. I’m thankful that Hubby isn’t getting middle of the night urgent phone calls from DC that need to be addressed right away.

At the same time, we’ve had significant health issues and stresses this past few years. I’ve had more external stresses and internal struggles with anxiety than just about any time in my life. It’s been an ongoing practice in releasing my anxiety to the Lord, and trusting Him. The Bahamas has been a weird dichotomy of peaceful and stressful. I’m still pondering the areas of growth from this time in life.

 

Good Goodbyes

While goodbyes don’t really get easier with time, I’m more prepared to say goodbye now than I used to be. Just as importantly, I feel more prepared to welcome friendships that I know will be for a limited time.

 

If you are facing a big transition. . .

Have you considered what friends God has brought into your life during this time?

What ways can you affirm your friendships? How can you plan to have meaningful times before you leave?

What ways can you facilitate good good-byes for your children? Have you encouraged them to talk to or write notes to people important to them?

Have you thought about how your friendships may change when you leave, and how you can continue them?

In what areas can you affirm growth in your life?

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Building A RAFT When We Move Series

The Beginning of Goodbyes
Reconciliation: Building a RAFT When We Move
Affirmation: Building a RAFT When We Move
Farewells: Building a RAFT When We Move
Think Ahead / Transitions: Building a RAFT When We Move

Read for Motivation – #MomHack

Monday #MomHack… Read for Motivation.

 

We move every 2-3 years, and that was the norm as I was growing up, too.   You would think I’d have a system down-pat, and know just what to do. . .

 

While that is sort of true, it isn’t really.  I have friends who have spreadsheets they use each move, timelines for move prep, and can declutter/organized/packout in less than a month.

 

Not me.

 

But what DOES work for me (other than hustle and lists) is to read for motivation, to get into the moving mindset.  Reading books and moving hack blogposts, listening to minimalist podcasts and decluttering audio books, . . .  Sure, they could be seen as a distraction from doing the work. But for me, they provide motivation and forward momentum.  

 

“Decluttering at the Speed of Life” (aff)  was recommended by a friend a couple of months ago.  To avoid clutter, of course I bought it on Kindle.  It’s been just the inspiration I need to toss what we don’t need, and get under our 7200lbs weight limit.  (Where did this stuff come from?! I hate shopping. . .  Oh, yeah, we have six kids and homeschool. . .)

 

Pretty good progress the past couple of weeks. . . Five boxes of homeschool books and supplies to homeschool friends, four boxes of don’t-judge-me-by-these-books boxes to my bookclub gals, six boxes of clothes to the Kirk for distribution, four boxes of miscellany donated to the thrift shop, and a partridge in a pear tree. . .

 

Yes, we’re making progress and I’m motivated to do more.

 

 

 

Reconciliation: Building a RAFT when we Move

Building a RAFT

Wheels’ up is six weeks from today. While we’re flying out of The Bahamas, I’m more focused on building a RAFT with the kids, in preparation for the move.

“Building a RAFT” is a tool developed by TCK pioneer and sociologist David Pollack. I first came across this idea about two decades ago in the book Raising Resilient MKs (<– free e- version!), and have been implementing this technique in the seven moves since! The “logs” of this raft are Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewells, and Transition/Think Destination.

Sidenote: When I started writing this, I thought I’d give a brief overview of each of the of these aspects in one blog post. Haha! Of course, writing brings to the surface much of what I’ve been pondering and so today I’m going to just focus on Reconciliation.

 

Reconciliation:

In the Eighties, my family moved from the tropical, Mayberry-like base of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the busy (and cold!) suburbs of Chicago. In the midst of my junior high emotions and junior high struggles, I remember my mom admonishing me that there are no “location cures.” Ouch.

My mom knew me, and knew that in typical military kid fashion I had begun to view moves as a solution to problems. She shared her wisdom that when we move, we bring our struggles with us.

The R in RAFT stands for Reconciliation. I apply this in two ways — making sure I seek to make right any disrupted relationships, and looking inward to see what within myself is upset and and needs reconciling.

As I type this, I feel a tightening in my chest and a local friend comes to mind. This is someone I care about, and I wish I could deny the relationship was disrupted. But when I am honest with myself, I know that I have not been the friend to her I want to be, and that I’ve prematurely retreated from the relationship. We have no big conflict which needs to be addressed, but I do need to reconcile before we leave. I know that if I don’t attend to this now, it will be something that will continue to burden me when we move. And I do care about her! I don’t want to leave her with any unresolved stress either. Moving brings an opportunity to consider how, so far as it depends on me, be at peace with all. (Rom 12:18)

Similarly, I’ve talked with my teenagers — what can they do to leave on the best of terms with their friends? Are there any people to whom they need to apologize–or forgive? What problems do they expect to change when we move? My teens are pretty self-aware and know there are no “location cures” — but it’s easy to have that idea infiltrate our subconscious.

 

A Clean Slate

One of the perks of moving is being able to implement in a grand way what Gretchen Rubin calls the Clean Slate strategy. Yes, I do get a fresh start when we move. I can design a new routine, new habits, a new me! — the possibilities feel endless!

But as my Mom tried to counsel me in junior high, a clean slate is not a “location cure.” I bring my own self wherever I go. My internal struggles come along me.

Moving often brings to the surface unresolved internal conflicts. I see my own weaknesses writ large, under the logistical pressures of the move. Unexpected emotions surface.

My hopes for a fresh start when we arrived, feel unfulfilled by the reality of how my days have unfolded in this place.

I’ve found it is important to give time and space during the moving prep, to allow reflection. I take this as time of reflection to see what God has done in my life, as we’ve lived in this place. My struggles, my growth; the stresses, God’s faithfulness. When I actually do this and bring these internal conflicts to the Lord, He brings reconciliation to my soul.

 

A Reminder

My friend Karen Campbell used to start each of her podcasts with the reminder of the promise that is true not just for when we move, but for every day:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

Amen.

 
 
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Building A RAFT When We Move Series

The Beginning of Goodbyes
Reconciliation: Building a RAFT When We Move
Affirmation: Building a RAFT When We Move
Farewells: Building a RAFT When We Move
Think Ahead / Transitions: Building a RAFT When We Move

Memory, Spring 2012


Being questioned by immigration after an insanely long pregovac flight, from Kenya to the U.S., traveling with a passel of kids…

“What do you do?” the agent asked.

I was so tired.

Looked at him blankly. Thought it must be a trick question.

Glanced at my huge belly and replied, “Make babies?”

The Beginning of Goodbyes

Another Good-bye

We have another big transition looming — we’re leaving Nassau, the Bahamas, after making it our home for three years.

I feel like I’m in a good place. I’m ready for the change, and at the same time not longing for it. I’m preparing, but not rushing to be gone. Each day I’m content, happy to be here — but the days are going by too quickly.

I’ve started my goodbyes.

We’ve moved frequently enough for me to know that I start withdrawing from people and my regular routine about six months before we move. This time I very consciously chose to not think about move logistics or disengage from life here that early. I compartmentalized — even scheduled it on my calendar! — I won’t start planning the move until April.

Yet, life intervened and a series of mild illnesses and guests started in January and disrupted our normal routines. In spite of my planning, we did start withdrawing from our regular routine about six months before the move.

 

Building a RAFT

One of the strategies I’ve leaned on for helping my kids (and myself!) through transitions is TCK pioneer and sociologist David Pollack’s strategy of  “Building a RAFT” (pp. 77-78)I first read about this nearly two decades ago by Jean Larson in the book Raising Resilient MKs <– you can get a free copy is this great resource! (In fact, I first blogged about Building a Raft in 2005 when we getting ready to leave Kyiv the first time.)

As a mom in a family that frequently moves, I really prioritize helping to nurture each family member through transitions. Each of us, in our own way, will go through the ups and downs of moving internally. I can’t weather the storm for them. But I can be with them, and help them build that raft that will help them navigate the rapids of this river of change.

Frequent travelers know, “put on your own oxygen mask first” — I am well aware that I’m not exempt from the challenges of moving. Yet I’ve found that helping my kids process their transitions in the move helps me process my own.

 

What is this RAFT?

Reconciliation
Affirmation
Farewells
Think Ahead

 

 

In the coming days, I’ll be writing more about what RAFTing looks like in our family, especially for our teens.  And I’m interested in what you’ve found helpful for your family when saying goodbyes. . . But it is time for me to get off the laptop where I’m pondering the emotional side of moving, and start sorting through stuff and prep for the material side of moving.

 

Useful acronymns:
MKs – Missionary Kids
TCKs – Third Culture Kids (Growing up outside of their passport country, like many military, diplomat, and multinational corporation families)
PCS – Permanent Change of Station, i.e., moving

 

Useful Resources:
Raising Resilient MKs – Physical Book (aff)
Raising Resilient MKs – Free, Ebook
Building a RAFT, Marilyn Gardner

 
 
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Building A RAFT When We Move Series

The Beginning of Goodbyes
Reconciliation: Building a RAFT When We Move
Affirmation: Building a RAFT When We Move
Farewells: Building a RAFT When We Move
Think Ahead / Transitions: Building a RAFT When We Move

True Confessions of a Foreign Service Homeschool Mom

Prior to our packout from Ukraine more than two years ago, I organized and labeled plastic bins with all the books we were keeping.

I asked the movers to keep them organized how I had them and fill the extra space with packing paper or pillows. I requested that they be wrapped in packing paper and then taped, to further protect the contents and not have nasty sticky residue on the storage boxes when we unpacked.

When we moved, I saw the boxes wrapped and taped as I requested.

Unpacking in Nassau, I discovered that actually everything I so carefully organized had been dumped in to cardboard boxes. Miscellaneous stuff had been instead packed in the plastic containers.

My careful organizing and sorting was all for naught.

Our new post had zero bookshelves.  When we finally were able to find bookshelves to purchase, we unboxed only the most vital books.

The rest have been on the landing by the stairs for the past two years…

Two years.

They have been a resentful reminder that sometimes my efforts are so easily undone.

I’m tackling it today…  I’m under no illusion that I’ll finish it any time soon.  My goal is to uncover enough of my special books to start Kindergarten (!) With A5 after Labor Day.

And hopefully, I’ll have them sorted and labelled again before our move next summer.

 

#ItsTheFSLifeForMe

What is Your Family Theme Song?

Music is as integral to me as my own DNA. My life has become a continual soundtrack, with music underscoring the most powerful and even the most banal moments of my life.

 

The soundtrack of our lives, the music in our DNA. . .  I believe music woven through our lives rings true to the human experience.

 

The truth of this has meant we identified family “theme songs” which characterized different eras of our family’s life.

 

As a young couple with little kids scratching out a living in the middle of nowhere West Texas, we really felt we were “you and me against the world.”  Simple life, lots of work, so much love. The best Valentine’s Day ever was indulging in ordering pizza with the kids. Then the radio played  I’ll Stop the World and Melt with You and we danced in each other’s arms on the back porch.

 

When we were in Ukraine with a church-planting team, we had a houseful of preschool/kindergarten boys who militantly sang Lead On O King Eternal. My daily life seemed like I was “rallying the troops” for homeschooling, meals, outings, clean up. The hymn fit our life.

 

The boys got older, we moved to the US, and they had their first year in a traditional school. It wasn’t a bad year, but it wasn’t for us. The next year, Hubby was in grad school, homeschooling the kids, and talking to them about Foucault while making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I was working.  We felt like we were bucking the system again, and weren’t going to be Another Brick in the Wall.

 

And truthfully, hasn’t that been the anthem of every homeschool family at some time?

 

Now as we are entering our last year in Nassau, and the crazy process of bidding on our next post is looming, our Foreign Service family theme song has been playing in my head a lot.  We dance around the kitchen, dream about the next place we’ll live, and prepare our hearts for the good-byes here.

 

“Roam,” the B52s

 

Fly the great big sky see the great big sea
Kick through continents bustin’ boundaries
Take it hip to hip rock it through the wilderness
Around the world the trip begins with a kiss

Roam if you want to, roam around the world
Roam if you want to, without wings without wheels
Roam if you want to, roam around the world
Roam if you want to, without anything but the love we feel

 

 

I’d love to know what your family theme songs have been through the years!  Or, talk to the kids — is there a song they thing “fits” the family best right now?

 

Home, In The Bahamas

We evacuated Nassau to the Florida Gulf Coast ahead of Hurricane Matthew. We came home Sunday.

The short version? Nassau and New Providence were greatly spared. No deaths related to the storm were reported. So much worse was expected. We thank God.

The long version? Wow. It’s so much worse than I expected, based on the positive reports I had when gone.

It’s all about expectations.

We expected devastation from Hurricane Matthew. So we are thankful it wasn’t. I expected to come home to “not so bad,” but it is bad. Friends have it worse than we do. And it landlord is taking care of repairing the damages to our home and yard.

Much of our fencing is down. Some parts just torn off, others have wooden posts split in half.

Shingles litter the yard. That’s expected — they’ve been coming off even in normal rain storms.

Broken glass of a type and color I didn’t even realize were on our windows are on the back patio. Lots of damage to the roof and attic dormer windows — I think that’s where the glass is from.

Splintered wood is piled up in the yard from the initial clean up. The biggest tree in front of the house has already been taken away. The royal palms in the front are fine. The avocado tree is down.

Two ficus trees flanked the entrance sidewalk. One is gone and the other use on its side, roots in the air. I assume that means the landlord thinks it can be salvaged and replanted.

The white rose bush which always looked scraggly but grew beautiful roses is gone.

I can see in my neighbor’s backyard, for the first time. The vegetation on both sides and privacy fence are down.

There are workmen on our roof and in the attic, whether we are home or not. They have ladders from the roof to the balcony to the ground. They haven’t asked to come in, but they could come in even without asking if they wanted to.

Part of the wall along the stairs to the attic has tumbled down completely. The ceiling in an upstairs bathroom crumbled down completely.

And yet, it really isn’t so bad.

I have family in New Orleans. When we visited a year after Hurricane Katrina, I was shocked at how bad things were driving through the city. My grandparents had to replace everything on the first floor, and the walls were still torn out downstairs when we visited. A full year later, and he was still washing dishes in the laundry sink and had card tables set up as counters because the kitchen wasn’t completed. We stayed in my brother’s FEMA trailer. I know it really isn’t so bad here.

But it is hard coming back to the chaos after the storm. It is hard knowing that we have it easy, when so many others have it much harder.