Monday, February 23, 2009

Getting Ready

In less than two weeks, Darryl, my parents, Joni & Kevin, and Jeanne & Max, and I will be heading to Israel for 18 days! Holy cow! I've known about this trip for about six months, but it always seemed so far away. Now, it is just around the corner and I am hoping I can be ready.

I feel like I'm preparing for a long, around-the-world voyage instead of an 11 hour flight across the Atlantic. Besides packing for a variety of activities and climes, just figuring out all the logistics of leaving two teenagers, a cat, a house and my job for almost three weeks has been daunting.

I keep checking the list of things the travel agent tells us to bring: 9 volt batteries, sewing kit, gloves and scarves, scriptures and reading material, $100 in small bills, $400 in large bills for tips and VISAs, copies of passports and credit cards, swimming suit and water shoes, long underwear and sunscreen -- duct tape wrapped around a pencil. Really? Doesn't this sound like a crazy list considering we are only allowed once suitcase that weighs less than 50 pounds? How can we pack for temperatures that will vary from 30 to 80 degrees? What if I didn't get the right converter or (gasp!) don't make a good choice on my reading material? And which binoculars do we bring? Which camera? Do I go for quality or portability? The chances of rain are pretty small but do I want to risk getting caught in a storm unprepared or taking up extra space for a poncho that I may never need? Will there really be laundromats in Jerusalem that will happily do our laundry for us one day?

And, on the homefront: Yikes! I am leaving two (wonderful) teenagers for almost three weeks. Of course, I'll stock up on groceries and leave some money, but what have I not thought of? It's not like they can just give me a call and I can be home in a couple of hours. These are kids that may or may not know how to handle an over flowing toilet, a clogged drain, leaking gutters. More likely, they will not empty the trash cans before the reek to high heaven, will not bring in the mail and the recycling bins, won't clean out the litter box.

So, this is another opportunity for growth. I have had nearly two decades to teach these young people to be independent and self reliant. I have done an inadequate job. It is so much easier to do it myself than to take the time to teach them new skills. What a mistake. It seems like they were four years old a week ago and that I had all the time in the world to work with them. Now they are nearly adults.

It's time to trust them and to turn it over to God. After all, they ARE His children, and I'm sure he'll keep an eye on them so I can enjoy my once in a lifetime adventure to Israel. Keep your fingers crossed and good energy flowing our way!

Friday, February 20, 2009

MVA Woes

Don't ever mess with the MVA gods -- you know, those ever so grumpy people who sit behind their desks at the Motor Vehicle Administration and determine if your three hour wait ends in a sigh of relief or a huge dose of frustration.

As I cleaned out the glove compartment in our 18 year old Honda, I came across the registration and realized it would expire this week. Knowing we'd be in Israel until the end of March and that Kate is just dying to drive, I thought I'd go on line and do a quick renewal. Haha. Not so fast. You see, John is still listed as the owner (I'm a mere a co-owner) and so they send the stickers to him. Well, he is MAD at me, and so it's not bloody likely he'd pass on the stickers to me once I paid the $138 reneewal feel.

Wanting to make sure I got all the pertinent information and wasted no time, I called the MVA to find out what to do. After a 15 minute wait, a real person answered and said that all although I couldn't make changes on line, I just needed to come in and tell the people at the MVA to use the address of the co-owner. Piece of cake! John also lost the title and so never gave it to me (as stated in our divorce agreement of 11 years ago) and so for just $20, I could also get a duplicate title.

Feeling organized and optimistic, I left work at 3 p.m. today and headed to the nearest MVA. I should have lost a bit of my sunny attitude when there were no parking spots, but undaunted, I carried on. I didn't lose my good attitude while waiting in a winding, ever ending line. I didn't lose hope as I sat for two and a half hours on tortuous metal chairs as number after number got called. FINALLY - I47 was being served at counter 2. Whooo hooo!

My spirits were crushed once the very serious and "I have no time for you, lady" attendant looked at me over her glasses. It didn't matter what the people on the phone told me; it didn't matter that I'd been in line for almost three hours; it didn't matter that it was now 5:35 and I was one of the few people sitting behind the locked doors of the MVA:

1. I can pay for the renewal ($138)
2. I cannot change the address; John has to come in and do it in person
3. I cannot get the title unless John signs it over and comes to the MVA in person.

I was seriously bummed, but knew it didnt' matter what I said to Ms. MVA. they are trained to have no feelings, to show no empathy, to be stone faced and immovable.

When I told Darryl about my woes, he glanced up and said, "You know, you shouldn't sweat it. We'll be lucky if the car lasts another year." Oh, yeah, I forgot that the car is two years older than it's new driver. DUH!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hitting Hard

Tonight was girls night out. There were twelve of us. We had dinner at my friend's house who lives in Bethesda -- in a house big enough to have a dining room with a table that comfortably seats 20. By outside appearances, it looked like it often does when a few or more of us get together. Twelve well dressed, coifed women. We are a group of friends who range in age from 25 to 67. We are from mixed socio-economic circumstances -- from single doing the Capitol Hill gig to retired on a fixed income; from upper class married with kids to a divorced entrepreneur. Times are tough, friends. Here's what is happening in this microcosm of the U.S.:

-friend 1: had to charge her $135 antibiotic prescription because her insurance doesn't cover that drug.
-friend 2: had to settle for getting 1/3 of her $220 prescription because she's between jobs, has no cash in the bank, and her credit card is maxed out
-friend 3: is about to lose her catering business, which was thriving to the point of craziness a year ago
-friends 4 and 5: have both lost their jobs and are desperately looking for new ones
-friend 6: is doing a lot of pro bono work but can't find a job that pays her bills
-friend 7: had a $1500 car repair bill she didn't want to put on a VISA; called to see if she could borrow against her 401K. She was told no because there was only $315 in the account. In January of 2008, the account had $68,000

The fact is that these women are all well educated, experienced and highly employable. But that's not the saddest thing. The saddest thing is that we're the lucky ones. We are feeling the pinch, no doubt, but we are not walking the edge like so many other families. We are not about to fall off into the abbys of helplessness and desparation that so many face.

At the beginning of the month, I drive by homes where the people have been evicted. All their possessions thrown in thoughtless, sad heaps in the front yard for anyone to rummage through. It's such a violation. It makes me especially sick to see the toys and little clothes. What will happen to those families? To those children? How many are too ashamed to let others know, to ask for help?

If you are reading this, you may want to thank the Creator that you are in a warm spot and have electricity. So many of our problems are dwarfed by those of so many around us. Please keep them in your prayers.