Sunday, March 31, 2013

Just visiting

I don't know if this event truly qualifies as an adventure, but it was a new experience for Linda and I as a couple and just for me as an individual. We went to my parents' house for Easter Sunday today. There were 7 of us, the additional 3 being my brother, his girlfriend and my paternal grandmother. We had entirely too much food, just the right amount of booze and wine and a great deal of laughs. This was not our first holiday together, as I was home visiting this last Christmas and Linda joined us on that day as well. However, this came together differently and in a way that it never has before.

For the last 10 years I have been around for Christmas ever year (except 2006 while I was in the Middle East). I hadn't made it home for any Easters and only 1 Thanksgiving. I may have happened to have been around for random Independence Days that coincided with a summer vacation, but I never went for the holiday. Prior to my departure, I lived in that house so I was ever-present anyway. But the mere fact that I was home on Easter and enjoying it with the family was far from the adventure.

Pre-military I lived there and was present because I was there. During my military stint I would fly in for the sake of the event and already be there. Today, for the first time, I went to visit my parents for the day. I left my house and drove to their's - no leave, no planes, not part of a bigger whole. It was just a day visit. Obviously, Linda was with me. We made something to bring (adorable dyed deviled eggs) and showed up there together. We hung out for a few hours, ate, socialized and left. At Christmas I was visiting and at my folks' house and she came over for the day. This was different. I was home but not really.

Every time we are together, my mother realized I am becoming more like my father, and let me tell you, of the 7 billion people on the planet there are about 6.99 billion worse people I could turn into. And as much as she complains that I have the same sarcastic sense of humor that usually makes her the butt of many jokes, she loves every minute of it. She joked that Linda and I act like a married couple, primarily when I complain (with the sound of defeat in my voice) about Linda's array of beauty products overwhelming every available bathroom surface and when I admit to having no say in the overall decor of our new home. My father enjoys talking with me on a whole new level. What was once a guiding hand in getting my life set up is now much closer to a peer in terms of home repairs and equity and all the other things we talk about as adults.

Linda is very much adopted as a Viglione, for better or for worse, and may not be able to escape even if she tried, at this point. She seeks refuge with my mother after dad and I use our wonder twin powers of sarcasm and jibing, yet is quick to distance herself from the fray when my mother seeks the same refuge in her. She has learned already how to not get roped into the mayhem.

At the end of the day, we packed up the car with the leftovers (enough to have fed the 7 of us roughly 7 times over) and headed home, but again I was not really departing as much as just going to my own home down the road. It was a unique feeling to arrive and depart as a couple, to visit without it being part of a longer visit, to know that I'm home but not quite home.

The adventure may not quite have been the day, but the understanding that our adventure and journey are much, much bigger. It served to reaffirm that our adventure is only just beginning. It will be quite an adventure with ups and downs, but we'll travel it together and when my family is involved one thing is for sure, it won't be dull. It'll be full of laughs and love every step of the way.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Transition Adventure: Part IV - Reunification

There was one piece of our new home that has been missing. Actually, they were 3 little furry pieces. Since arriving at my parents' house on the 10th of March, our little fur babies have been staying there. With the construction and the boxes, it was just not a kitty friendly environment. We've been working feverishly to get it all taken care of to get out of the mess and to also have our little furry family back with us.

Last night we finally made that happen, but it wasn't without a minor adventure, of course. We got each of the 3 babies in their carriers. A moment later I see Shadow walking around. Naturally I didn't remember to check the front gate when we put her in from the top opening. So she went back in and everything was clipped into place. It was time to tote them downstairs and into the car; Benny and Shadow in their gigantic carriers and Herbie in his little one (poor little runt of the family).

Three seconds before I open the front door to go outside, Herbie bolts out of his cage and hides under the dining room table. For those unfamiliar with my parents house, it's an open 12 room house with a finished basement. So when my dad blocked one doorway and I covered the other in an attempt to corral the little monster, he bolted again, tried to hang a right, scared the shit out of my mom who screamed and scared him in return, which caused him to turn on full afterburners and get out of sight.

Now begins the hunt for Herbie Houdini who magically seemed to be nowhere. As we sweep the rooms looking behind gigantic hutches, wall units, under tables and couches and inside of cabinets. We closed doors where possible after verifying he wasn't in rooms. We had isolated him to the 1st floor and 3 rooms, yet he was nowhere. We had just about resigned ourselves to leaving him there and letting him come out on his own, so my parents could keep him tucked away in a single room, but that required leaving litter and food and having the little ones split up (which they have never had to endure since adoption).

One last check behind the couch, that 4 adults had checked a dozen times combined, showed me a cowering ball of fur with glowing eyes. I found the escape artist! I carefully lifted him out and put him in the carrier, after verifying all clasps and latches were secured and we loaded the munchkins into the car. Of course, we forgot their sedatives so had to listen to a symphony of pathetic meow cries on the way home.

Upon arrival, Herbie darted behind our couch and we haven't seem him since. The other 2 have been exploring all night long, except for cat naps that Shadow took at our feet throughout the night. It's so funny to watch them check everything out and find new spots to hang out. All morning Benny and Shadow have been sticking close to me. So much so that this is my view as I sit at the desk and type this. I guess they are happy to have Mommy and Daddy back. We are happy to have our little family intact again, that's for sure.

Their movement has been limited to repositioning how they sleep.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Transition Adventure: Part III - Reintegration

The first night arriving home we spent at my parents' house. After that grueling trip, the last thing we wanted to do was drive even another half hour to the new place. That was for the next day, Monday March 11th. Unfortunately, the kitchen remodel that was supposed to be done prior to our return, was delayed. So the next morning we found our empty condo full of construction debris and contractors. Cable guy was coming on Tuesday and movers on Thursday. Cabinets weren't in. Countertops weren't even measured or manufactured, much less delivered. It was about to be hectic.

All that week we spent unboxing and organizing without about 50% of our place available, since the kitchen was unusable the stove and fridge were in the dining room, leaving little room for maneuvering. It is hard to get settled when you make more of a mess than you get rid of.

So since Monday, March 11th we have diminished a pile of paper about 5 feet high by 3 feet deep by about 10 feet wide. That is 150 cubic feet of paper. We've folder, bundled and tied it all up and about half that volume in cardboard. The kitchen is now completed and gorgeous and everything is away. We've learned the area; we've filled the cupboards and fridge; we've replaced lights, set up TVs and basically are close to completion. Still loose ends that need organization and finding homes for things and there are definitely surfaces that are bare and Linda is twitching to put knick-knacks on. Suffice it to say that the home part of the transition adventure is complete, for all intents and purposes. Anything else is aesthetic and inconsequential.

During this process, Miss Linda had a big birthday. She turned 30 just yesterday, the 24th. The night prior we went out to dinner. It was my plan to make it a surprise, but gathering folks during our adventure proved too lofty a goal for me, mostly because with my distance I hadn't met any so I was blindly inviting people based on names I recognized from her stories by hunting through her Facebook friends list. So I had to tell her. The seeds had already been planted, location secured and big rocks all aligned. All she had to do was finalize the head count and make sure nobody was left out (it's surprising how many people don't have Facebook). The event was a success. We had her cousins and friends from that group all together. In another group was people she went to school with. A couple of my friends that she's gotten to know were there. My parents were in attendance (Mom helped with many of the smaller details while I was gone). Finally, of course our mutual friend that introduced us came with his better half. She spent the whole night wandering and interfacing with important people from each area of her life and I have now met them all as well.

Our house is 99% settled, we've had time to socialize, she's back at work, I'm tidying up loose ends around here and transition is almost at its terminus.

There is still one major part of this transition looming. We hope to be able to update everyone soon.

Then our life truly begins and we can start all new adventures.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Transition Adventure: Part II - Journey

This is a little bit delayed, but I wanted to take the time to chronicle what has already happened to catch everyone up to what IS happening. So there will be more parts coming in the next few days to bring it all up to present day.

Linda arrived on schedule to find my apartment bare bones. It was me, an air mattress and the kitties. We spend the rest of the time in Biloxi cleaning the apartment from top to bottom and packing and planning and doing everything for the big move. We scrubbed walls and floors and shampooed carpets and Windexed everything in sight. We did manage to take time to get to our favorite southern BBQ spot called The Shed (if you know nothing about it, look it up on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives).

On Friday, March 8, 2013 I went on Keesler AFB for the last time to officially sign out of the military and begin my 104 days of paid leave (that I spent years accruing). It took a short time to go through the motions and I stopped by the office to say my final goodbyes before watching the base fade and get smaller in my rearview mirror.

The next morning before sunup we headed out from Mississippi through Alabama into and through Georgia before arriving, 11 hours later in Sumter, South Carolina - my previous military home of 5 and a half years. After briefly settling into the hotel room we met up with my Air Force dad, hero and mentor, Chief Master Sergeant Frank Dannals (ret.) for a casual dinner and some reminiscing. We lost an hour somewhere during the day when we crossed from Central Standard Time into Eastern Standard Time. After some chow, we crashed hard for the night knowing we had to do the same thing all over again the next day.

Sunday morning we were back on the road, once again before the rooster's crow, having lost yet another hour because Eastern Standard Time became Eastern Daylight Time somewhere amid our short slumber. And so we wound our way out of South Carolina and straight north through North Carolina, Virginia, Washington D.C., Maryland, Delaware and into New Jersey (which we obviously drove almost the entire length of), for another 11 hours before pulling in the driveway at my parents house, sporting balloons, a banner and some tears upon my arrival and replete with northern deliciousness after subsisting on fast food for almost a week.

And so after 96 hours of furious cleaning and 22 hours of nearly nonstop driving I was home, back in NJ, safe and sound. It all went as smooth as can be, save for a minor hiccup when the gas gauge decided to take a nap and we panicked thinking we had no gas and a major problem. We didn't kill each other, had lots of laughs and the drugged up kitties slept peacefully the entire way.

If only we knew then that the real fun was just about to begin, but more on that later...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Transition Adventure: Part I - Preparation

It has been a long while since I posted anything to this blog. Linda and I had settled into our version of normal: I was in Mississippi and she was in New Jersey. Her visits here came at regular intervals and we  spent most of that time in lighter activities that revolved around just spending time together rather than running around on blog-worthy adventures. But that is all about to change.

She is currently on a plane in Houston to arrive here in Mississippi for the very last time. This trip isn't so much an adventure, in and of itself, as much as it is a stage in an evolution that is very much an adventure. My tenure in the military has come to a close. I am typing this from a folding chair, MacBook Air on my lap and phone perched precariously on some cardboard boxes marked for the trash. Other than that, an air mattress, some microwaveable food and 3 very confused cats, my apartment is devoid of anything useful. The movers hauled all of my worldly possessions away today, bound for New Jersey.

Linda isn't coming here to visit. Her role, this time, is to help me in the final steps of my active duty journey and to be my co-pilot on the long road home (cats make terrible navigators as they can't read maps). So over the next few days we will be doing our "lasts" here in Biloxi and prepare for many new "firsts" upon arrival home.

One such "last" has already happened. Last night I slept alone for the last time, as did she. Jersey City will be a shared terminus. What only some of the world knew until this moment is that we will be moving in together in a 2 bedroom condo that is waiting. For the next few nights we are "camping in" on an air mattress; Saturday night will be spent in a hotel at the midway point; Sunday night we are hosted by my parents; and Monday through delivery of my furniture (probably next Friday) we will be on a temporary bed at the condo. After that we begin to settle into our new, joint life. So, I'll no longer be sleeping alone, save for the nights when I misbehaved and my kitten buddy and I are banished to the couch, I suppose.

So this is Transition Adventure: Part I. I pick her up from the airport for the last time and we come back here to the exciting world of Netflix movies on an iPad and Hot Pockets. More to come as we embark on this journey over the next week.