Saturday, December 28, 2013

No One Sends Postcards from Limbo

Mesa Arizona, October 2013 -- In limbo and happy about it (Miranda mores than anyone)

About three weeks ago I exhaled for what felt like the first time in over six months. I know that in the grand scheme of things, six months is not a particularly long time, but holding your breath for half a year feels like an eternity. In late fall of 2012 we decided that our time in Abu Dhabi was coming to an end. This was not an easy decision. We had many friends in the city and had grown to love the region in a way that is hard to express. Our three years in Abu Dhabi changed us and brought us closer together as a family in a way that no other place could have. Every time I see someone in a head covering or hear something in the news about the Middle East, I ache a little. However, it was important for our children to have a sense of their own culture and family was just too far away. I still hope to go back one day, but so little of my life has actually gone the way that I planned it that I can’t cling to much to my intentions.
One of our last family shots in Abu Dhabi.
Too many friends left behind to count.
            In May, Julie and the kids left me to sort out our worldly possessions and returned to the US to spend time with her family. It was a long six weeks apart, but we were both busy and, in the end, came away from our time apart with a better understanding of how poorly we do apart. It’s an important understanding to have.
            After a few delays, we were together again by the end of June.  For the first week or so we basked in the bliss of togetherness. We traveled from Rexburg to Seattle seeing friends along the way from Abu Dhabi and from our time in Moscow. We also were able to spend a great few days with my sister and her family on idyllic Whidby Island. Driving through the mountains and valleys, America had become new again to us and everything was right in the world. Then we stopped moving. When you’re on the move, you only really think about the next stop. Anything beyond the next city is too far in the future to really consider. When you stop moving, that’s when you take inventory.
            My Mom and Step-Dad had volunteered their home in Arizona for us to use while we sorted through things like immigration, re-culturization and figuring out what to do with the rest of our lives. It was that last part that was probably the most problematic. There was so much for us to do to close the chapter on our Abu Dhabi experience that what thought we gave to the future was fairly abstract. I had applied for a few jobs, but was unable to pursue anything aggressively because I had let my green card lapse many years before. So, soon after we settled into Arizona, we sent in the necessary paperwork after wrestling with what forms went where. After getting our paperwork in, we were told that we’d have a few weeks to wait for my work authorization. I believe the immigration officer’s exact words were, “Enjoy the next twelve weeks off.”
            One of the best things I did was enroll in a couple of extra classes for my doctorate. It kept me busy and, more importantly, when people asked me what it was I did, I could reply ‘Full time student’ instead of ‘full time schlub.’ It’s the little things that keep us sane. There was also a pool in my mother’s community that kept the kids active and a fantastic martial arts school that allowed us to find a little bit of exercise and routine in our lives. Liam enrolled in early morning seminary which at least got us out of bed every morning and we were welcomed by the ward even though we could be gone at any moment. Julie was called to the nursery, Liam became one of the ward organists and I tried to help out as a ward missionary. We did our best to dig in as much as you can while living out of suitcases in someone else’s home. 
One of the things that kept us sane was Tae Kwon Do a couple of times a week.

The summer was hot (though we had experienced hotter) and we were busy enough to not focus solely on the waiting. Our purgatory was broken up for me by a short trip to Florida for a job interview where I also got to see my brother and his family along with my mom and stepdad who happened to be there at the same time (not as much of a coincidence you might think given their travel habits). We also took a trip to Utah to welcome Julie’s nephew home from his mission and to spend some time with my cousin Liz and the rest of the Lambert clan.  Towards the end there was a great visit from our friends the Kirchners, a wonderful trip to Sedona with Mom and Mike and then a last minute trip to visit Julie’s cousin Katie and her family in Yuma.
Even though I feel like we made the most of our time in Arizona, the one constant of that experience was the feeling of waiting for our lives to begin. It was difficult to commit to anything more than a week or two in the future because so much was dependent on what came down from the folks at immigration. So, while we were in Sedona I finally got notice that my work authorization had been approved and that when we went from our personal form of suspended animation to having our lives shift into high gear. It was a whiplash inducing change. Only by listing the specifics of that last week in Arizona will you begin to appreciate just how quickly our entire lives were changed. On November 19th, I found out my work authorization was approved. On Monday the 25th,  I received a job offer from Santa Fe College as an instructional designer. That afternoon I rented a Uhaul trailer and by 6:00 am Tuesday morning we were on the road to Gainesville. It was a relatively unremarkable trip. We pulled into Gainesville Friday afternoon and signed a short-term lease by midday. By Saturday we had most of our furniture in place (some might think it a blessing to be shopping for housewares on Black Friday weekend—it wasn’t). Monday, I started work and we all started the business of settling in.
I know I’m still in the honeymoon phase of things, and coming off a relatively long stint of unemployment may also color my view, but so far I’m pretty excited to be where I am doing what I’m doing. Although I’ve appreciated many of the jobs I’ve had over the years, I can’t remember the last time I anticipated going in to work.

We’re going to be here a while. It’s nice to know that there’s not another move on the horizon. One of the best things about going to church is being able to tell people that we’re not going anywhere soon. I can’t say that I know exactly what tomorrow holds, but I can say that I no longer fret about the future in the ways that I’ve fretted about the future in the past.  


The Denning Family said...

It's so good to "see" your family! I'm so glad you are able to settle and begin your life again. We just got back from a little trip with our family and living in suitcases for a week about does me in. :) So I really can't imagine not feeling truly settled for so long. We wish you the best in your new corner of the world!

Adria Arafat said...

Way to finaly get to put down roots. We went the other way, and bought a house here! Glad to know all is well. Take care.

Let the party begin... said...

Wow! Nothing boring about you Franks! Congrats on the job and setting down roots! Love the family pictures!

Pamela Gee said...

I love you all and miss you!! We wish we had gotten to see you a bit more than for a moment, Jason, before you and the family all headed to Florida! The very best thing is that you are all together and doing well!!