Friday, July 16, 2010

The Blessing and the Curse of Home Leave

I haven't felt much like blogging lately. We are home in Texas. We, or at least most of us, are staying with one one brother-in-law while the teen is staying up the street at the others. We are not really in vacation, although it might look like it to the casual observer. We are actually on homeleave. That is 20 business days stateside between posts as mandated by congress for foreign service personnel. Yes mandated, it is not an optional activity. During this time we need to take care of any medical issues such as dentist visits, OB visits, eye doctor, ect... Aside from that we get to use this time to spend with friends and family and take care of any business that is difficult to deal with from overseas. Also most people use this time to get in some shopping at the wonderland that is Target. This time is both too short and far too long.

Pay attention any of you newbies or wanna-be's reading this. The department pays your plane ticket back to the states and then you are on your own. This means if you don't have a handy brother-in-law that will let you crash at his house you are gonna be out some serious money for hotels or rentals. In all likelihood you will be out a bundle anyway. Just the rental car (with 4 kids the only option for me is a minivan) is setting us back over a grand. Plan ahead for homeleave or you will be broke or taking pay advances. If you are hanging out in a summer rental or a hotel that 20 days (business days - doesn't include weekends or holidays) is going to stretch long and expensive.

Amazingly both of my brother-in-laws live with in a block of my old house. Yes, at one time all three brothers lived in the same small neighborhood. This is a blessing because most of my closest friend still live in the neighborhood and I can walk over for a visit so easily, and that is just wonderful. It also means that I end up walking by my own house. The house where we lived when 3 of my four children were born. The house we had to sell when we started this mad adventure that is FS life. It is hard passing by that house. I really wish we could buy it back and have it again, just keeping it there for homeleave as a refuge. I really miss having a place that is mine, that completely reflects my taste and personality. It doesn't seem to bother me as much when we are overseas. Most of us find ways to personalize the Drexel Horrible.....I mean Drexel Heritage decor and make it our own, at least a little. And anyway everyone at post is living with the same awful furniture you are, unless of course you are in Milan or another unfurnished post. When I am at home I see my friend's houses: one with the mission furniture, gorgeous curtains, and strong bold colors that suit her personality; another with the French Country style clutter, pastel walls and comfy sofas that make her house unique I start missing my house. I chose the wall colors, the floor tile, the curtains, even the light fixtures. The furniture wasn't fancy, but every piece was a piece Dave and I picked out, in a finish or fabric that we liked.

David and I have talked about buying a place or building a little house somewhere. It really doesn't make good financial sense, but it may be that it does make enough emotional sense that we will be seriously looking by the next homeleave. I am finding it increasingly hard to not have a place of my own. The other thing I find hard is that since we are here such a short time it sort of feels like we are the rope in a game of tug-o-war, everybody wants to see us. I have so many more requests for us to get together than there are days of homeleave. We will be leaving with many people unseen and spending so little time with the people we do see. It is heartbreaking, frustrating, and exhausting.

Take today for example: this morning we took the three youngest to the pediatrician for well kid check-ups. After everyone was checked out and Grayson was turned into a pincushion to get him caught up on his shots we headed over to Grampa's house to spend time with another brother-in-law and his wife who had driven in from Missouri to visit while we were here. The kids played with cousins in Grampa's pool while the adults (several other assorted in-laws were there as well) hung-out and visited and watched the kids to make sure all were fine. Then we headed "home" where I cooked dinner for both brother-in-law's families as well as for a sister-in-law, her daughter, and grandson who arrived from Kentucky yesterday. No pity! I enjoy cooking, it relaxes me, tonight it was homemade ricotta gnocchi in light tomato sauce served with rotisserie chicken (from the grocery), bagged salad, and garlic bread. So really all I made was the pasta and sauce, HEB cooked everything else. I like cooking but I know my limits. Now I am blogging while Dave, one brother, one sister, one niece and one nephew play dominoes. Have I ever mentioned that Dave comes from a very large family? Anyway it is the end of a busy day I am tired and still far too wound up to sleep. Tomorrow it is off to the eye doctor for Alonzo and Colin. Grayson and I will hang out here, maybe try to spend some time with some of my friends.

Home leave is a blessing and curse, it is both too long and too short. I can't wait for it to begin and once in the midst of it I often guiltily long for it to be over so we can begin to settle into a new normal, in a new house, in a new country. Being homeless, even temporarily, is hard.


Daniela Swider said...

We haven't gotten that far yet but I understand how you feel. Home leave seems to be another limbo situation, of which there are many in the FS.

Just breathe! This too shall pass!

Hope you get a chance to see as many of your friends and family as possible. I can see how that can be exhausting though.

I'll Take Mine... said...

I can appreciate how exhausting it is trying to see, and be seen, by everyone.
Thanks for your candor and insights into home leave.

I can see why owning a place of your own would be appealing. But then you'd end up spending a week repairing things, among all the appointments. And you might end up refusing to leave once it was time to go. Sorry, Dave, I seen to have chained myself to the sink while working on the, no, go ahead to malawi without me, I'll catch up... :-)

Hope you enjoy the rest of your time with friends and family.

Anonymous said...

Not in FS, but as an expat I can relate! At least when we go "home," we go for a couple of months! But then finding a place to stay that long is hard. We often end up in friend's basements, traveling around a lot, etc. At least when I'm overseas I have my own things though! Hang in there!

TulipGirl said...

My daydream is that my ILs will want to buy a duplex and that we can own half and not rent it out (but when they have visitors, they can stay there.) And then, we have a place to be "home" needed. . . Not likely at this point, but. . .

I appreciate you writing this, everything still is so new FS-wise. . . and I know things will be different in spite of the many years of moving around.

(Btw, we lived in SA in the early 90s -- first in Live Oak (?) and then on Brooks AFB.

Monica said...

aw! love you, shannon. i agree - this too shall pass and soon you will be posting happily from malawi with new snake adventures and such. i love seeing you even if it is just on a saturday morning for coffee when you casually ring the doorbell!!! it makes me feel like you still live here and there is no rush, no frantic push to see you, and that you won't be leaving soon. :o(

CHRIS said...

I see you are going through a similar time as we were, though we are just now going on our first abroad tour. I see the juggling starting, but understand a little from early married military life. It is hard to find people who REALLY understand how hard mobile life can be. You have lots of like minds listening and reading...and enjoying the lessons.

Hope you enjoy the remainder of your home time.

Jae said...

I can only imagine how crazy it is, being here. And how much this lil' hood and your former abode, tug at you. I know this place is unique. Just try to relax for your last few days, and know we all love seeing you, even if it's only for a little bit. As Monica said, it makes it feel like you live here again, and that's a nice feeling. Enjoy these last few days!! **HUGS!**

Donna said...

Well put. We're enjoying our dwindling days of home leave, but definitely ready to get outta here. It's hard work, this homelessness.

fsowannabe said...

Don't you hate the non-vacation vacations? Or worse, the vacations you need vacations from? At least you're back in Texas!

Kate Husband said...

Having a home is wonderful -- and was a huge blessing this year for us, as we have had so LONG in the US for D's cardiac rehab. I am trying to fit a year of loving care/decorating/remodeling and organizing into weeks, though!