Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Round and round we go, chant the voices in my head...

As the day I head home gets closer and closer I can hardly WAIT...even though I know that it is very likely lil girl will cling to Dada instead of me...when she and I came home from a vacation together in CA, she freaked out when she woke up to Dada changing her instead of Mama.

I have tried to prepare myself for the hurt that I will feel if M rejects me in favor of other, lately more stable figures in her life.  I hope she won't forget me, or resent me for being away for so long...I still haven't decided if this job is for me permanently.  It will be a few months yet, and having seen the cost of daycare out here first hand, I'm not eager to move M until we know for absolutely, positively SURE we're making a transition out here. 

Still the little voice in the back of my head, that selfish little voice, whispers every so often, "Oh, you could afford to bring her out with you, and wouldn't you both be happier??"  But then the doubts begin to circle around the little voice, chanting, "But how do you feel about the job? Is it definitely for you or not? You shouldn't drag her out of her nice, safe, relatively cheap daycare that she loves for out here amongst strangers!  What about the neighborhood, what if something HAPPENS and she's with you?!"

*sigh*  So the voices argue back and forth in my head all day long while I try to concentrate on doing my job.  The job I'm not sure I like enough to stay past the initial contract.  It's nice being "just an admin" again, on the one hand...it's nice not having to be on-call for once in my career, it's not not being expected to work extra hours for no extra pay.

But the cost of living out here is sky-high, in more ways than just rent, even though that too is ridiculous.  I can deal with the weather (I'm forever freezing) but my husband, poor dear, would melt.  On the other hand, the job market out here is excellent in comparison to pretty much everywhere else, but along with that comes the realization that I have no friends or family out here to lean on. 

I just don't know...and I hate not-knowing.  The average decent daycare out here is double what we pay for the one in Sidney.  And it's hard to justify pulling little girl out of a daycare who's willing to go the extra mile...for instance, they give her extra helpings of food if she's still hungry (and invariably we hear from the incredulous daycare lady at the end of the day, 'Do you know your daughter ate THREE SERVINGS of ?!`) as well as helping her with walking and other such things.

So...I dunno.  Nights out here are hardest, when I lie alone on my air mattress and wish I had a nice warm husband to cuddle, or that I could wander down the hall to my daughter's room to listen to her breathing.  I try not to think too hard on those things, because it always puts me in tears.  I miss my old life so much, even though I know there's no going back.  I know that going home will make me happier than I've been since this all started...and that leaving again will likely result in me crying the whole way back.

Why can't this country be like other countries in the world and give me the first two years of my kid's life off work?

Friday, June 25, 2010

I get to go home for the lil girl's b-day!

Oh happy, happy day!  I get to go home for the little one's b-day!  Thanks to my new employers being absolutely AWESOME, I will have funds for plane tickets to go home for the weekend of July 4th!

I am so happy, I can hardly believe it...!  Only one more week and I'll be home again for a precious few days with my husband and daughter and tons of extended family! (Cause my daughter is totally more popular than me!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

First Day of Work...YAY WORK!

So today was my first day at actual work.  Yay for work.  I can't say anything about what I do or where I do it.  I'm sure there will be more lectures and forms to sign later on that reinforce that fact.  But I can talk about impressions of the place, which is really all I'm blogging about.

The work I do is really immaterial to the whole of the "wow, moving to a huge new city" experience.  It's like any other job...just located somewhere far, far away from home.

Which sucks.  On the upside, I might be able to work out a way to be home for the lil girl's first birthday...providing stuff isn't too expensive.  I hope I hope things work out...I really hope.  It'll be doubly hard to leave her, but at least I'll get one long weekend to spend at home again...and maybe that will be enough to keep me sane.  I guess it will have to be.

What I wouldn't give to have a job like this out where my house is though...anyway.

I've noticed a lot of my co-workers complain about the weather...it is VERY hot...and VERY humid.  A lot of them are envious of my living in Colorado, since dry heat is much better...I tried to explain.  Yes, out here it feels like you're walking into a shower.  In Colorado, you feel like you're walking out into a BLAST FURNACE, and the instant you open your mouth to talk, the dry heat sucks all the moisture out of you like some great cosmic kiln.

Seriously...hot is hot people.  The weather here seems to stay hot a lot more, and their winters are, with the exception of a few freak storms, extremely mild.  I also learned, to my sadness, that many of my co-workers fear for my life living where I am.  Apparently I picked the roughest of the rough side of town to live.  They advised me to break my lease and move.  They even offered to take me apartment shopping.

I explained as delicately as I could about the plethora of housing we own back in Denver, and why preserving as much moula as I could while living out here is the main reason I am living somewhere deemed "not safe."  It is the ONLY reason.  So far, I've been here a week and things have been relatively quiet.

I hope it stays that way. 

Monday, June 21, 2010


More delays in the paperwork front, but I remain optimistic.

I drove up to Silver Spring today, to take my car in for a once-over and an oil change.  I'm not sure whether the prior owner or the dealer took decent care of the car, but it drives noticeably better than it did before the oil change.  My husband suggested that my car being oil-thirsty, having a bad oil filter probably hurt it's performance a lot. 

Now the problem is, it's zoomy and happy and wants to GO...and I can't let it on any but a few select roads that are curvy with shoulders.  So my mission is to take it out at least once a day and drive it around...it needs to be driven, and the engine revved, for it to be a happy, non-clogged car.

So say the rotary engine message boards, at any rate.  And who am I to argue about the car NEEDING to be driven to be happy?  I mean...well.  Let's face it...it IS fun to drive!

I have some hilarious video of The Little Bit pouncing on our big fluffy black cat...sadly, I don't know why the 3gp videos won't play on a Windows machine...I suppose I can download VNC and see if that works.  If it does, I'll see if there's any sane way to post video...and if not, it'll land in my FB queue.

Anyway...back to more episodes of Jumong.  I'm glad it's a long series, since I've had plenty of time to kill lately.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

It's been a long time since I've lived alone...

And the more I settle into the new apartment, the more it becomes apparent.  I don't remember being quite this paranoid the last time I lived alone, for one thing, and I don't remember spending so many hours wishing time would just PASS, already, so I can get one day closer to maybe seeing my husband and daughter in person again.

Maybe this is what J meant when he said I needed to find myself again...though, I do wish I'd done it via the new sports car versus new job, new apartment, new neighborhood, and all of it ... totally alone in a strange new city PLUS the new sports car that I now worry about because the neighborhood is, as the local security officers put it, "about a mile from a really bad area."

Part of it probably has to do with the fact my apartment is, for all intents and purposes, empty.  I've got essentials...an air mattress to sleep on, bedclothes, a suitcase of clothes, shoes, a couple lamps.  I have a little laptop stand my MIL bought me at IKEA, a folding lawn chair and one of my favorite TV shows on DVD.  I have basic groceries, basic pots and pans and dishes and cups and silverware.

I use my Droid as a tether to have Internet access since Comcast is arguing with me about the prior tenant not having canceled their service...and judging from the sheer number of unpaid bills in the mailbox, I gather she didn't pay any bills for a month or more.

Since I don't know when I'll have actual Internet access, the Droid works to provide me enough access to prevent going insane. 

The water pressure from my washer hose (the apartment style that attaches to a sink) is causing the faucet on my sink to leak like a sieve.  It's an old faucet, and it looks like it goes on my list of things for someone go spend $60 at Home Depot and replace.  Luckily, the leak seems to be confined to the faucet assembly only, which is thankfully draining into the sink above and not dripping down below, so it should be an easy fix. 

I seem to have gotten relatively lucky anyway, since my apartment looks like it got all new appliances and such installed, and all without me having to pay the premium price for an "upgraded" apartment (cause the appliances are all I care about, I could care less about granite countertops at this point!)

All for $828 a month (due to a yearly special) is about the cheapest I can get in the D.C. metro area...for all that its in a clearly neglected neighborhood...there's a grocery store and K-Mart within walking distance, and work is about 15 minutes drive (we'll see how it is for traffic on Tuesday.)

Due to the neighborhood not being the best, I don't go out at night...try not to come home late if I can avoid it, and make sure to park my car visible from a window of my apartment if I can.  My car is currently parked in the perfect spot, under a street lamp clearly visible from my bedroom window. 

Some additional culture shock notes...people are shocked, totally shocked, by politeness.  I gave up my grocery cart to an elderly woman who was having trouble wrestling one free, and she was just floored I offered mine to her.  My being polite also got me some weird looks.

People are frequently surprised when I say, "Thank your sir," or "Do you need help, ma'am?"  Damn that cultural imperative to be formal when talking to strangers or folks older than myself.  For those who don't know, I was raised in an Asian household.  My mom is very strict about that sort of thing, and most customs are relatively unconscious.  

I realize respect and politeness aren't the norm around here, nor is friendliness and saying, "Good morning!" but people are, after they get over their moment of shock, very polite to me in return...one of the people most frank and polite about his opinion was a young man dressed like a gangster...whether he was or not, I didn't really speculate. 

The education level out here is poor, and it shows.  Not that people are willfully ignorant...they're just ignorant and don't even know it!  I'm not one to correct folks to their faces, because I am at my core non-confrontational unless I am forced to be, so I smile and nod.  But it amazes and depresses me there are so many people here who have tons of potential and no ambition. 

I don't dress nice when I am home or out and about.  I dress in old jeans, boots or sandals and a t-shirt.  You may wonder to yourself why I don't dress nicer, seeing as I drive a nice car and make good money...and it's because it draws attention to me.

People take a lot off a first impression based on how you are dressed...and if you're dressed like you ought to be stuck up, people will treat you from the first moment as if you are, regardless of what you're really like.  Out here, not being from the area and not wanting to advertise that, I don't tell people what I do for a living...I don't tell them what car I drive, and when asked about my family I talk mostly about my Daddy, who used repair office equipment.

Most folks out here just nod, having heard the same old story...hard working parents, not much money, etc.

I did grow up poor.  Until today, I thought I'd had it hard...but talking to the man who maintains the apartments, I had it easy...our house had indoor plumbing when I was growing up.  The maintenance man didn't...and he considers himself lucky to live in an apartment only a little bigger than this, with a heating system he designed himself.  He's happy, he tells me, and he can be happy and proud of his situation with far, far less than I have or my daughter will have.

I think it's a valuable lesson to have learned...and I'm grateful to that man for teaching it to me, even though he didn't know he did. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Musings on sacrificing family for job...

I've worked in IT a long time.  I've sacrificed a lot, and my family has too, for my career to go the way it has been...pretty much every time I've had a major job change, I've had to move to take the job.  This job is no different.  My family may yet move for me to take a permanent job here, or my new permanent employer may decide to send me someplace else after my initial contract here is done. 

It's the reality of being a consultant-for-hire, regardless of the field.  I liken what I and my family are dealing with akin to serving in the military in terms of the time away from family.  I go out someplace for work, and eventually my family follows me...but I sincerely hope that this won't be the norm for our lives as my little girl grows up...that by the time she is school-age we can pick a place to settle.

I really hate contract work.  And I don't hate it because of the work itself...I actually greatly enjoy the work aspect of contracting.  I hate the travel...I hate the time away from family.  I hate how temporary life feels, when it seems like your real life is going on without you back home and you're stuck in exile. 

When I told folks where I was going and why I wasn't taking little bit with me immediately, the reaction was typically, "Oh I could NEVER do that..."

Now I will ask:  Why?

Yes, it hurts...yes it is painful and difficult being away from everything you know, your friends and family.  Yes, money doesn't make up for everything.  But an opportunity is an opportunity.  And the thing I keep telling myself over and over is that this is temporary.  If we didn't need the money this will bring is so badly, I wouldn't have even considered the job.

I got much the same reaction when I moved for my prior job.  We lived there three years and made many friends who remain close.  It wasn't easy, and I questioned when I first started whether or not I'd done the right thing...those three years were some of the happiest in my life. 

I have to give this the chance it deserves...despite my reservations.  Who knows?  In a few months I may be writing that my family is moving out here...or that my employer decided to send me back West, where all our family is.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pics from home!

I would post the videos (my husband sent one of little bit terrorizing the cat that's hilarious) but I can't figure out how...so here's pictures!

She hates her car seat.  But she's basically accepted that's what she has to deal with.

The hungriest lil girl ever is hungry!  She's always had a huge appetite.

Whatcha pointin that camera at me for Daddy?

Proof that life goes on...my lilies on the front porch are doing fantastic! (I planted em last year.)

On the waiting for news on my clearance front, I am supposed to hear something today...so here's hoping!  I need out of this hotel room and into an apartment and a job to go to daily to distract me from the fact I'm not AT HOME with my family.  *sigh*

The saddest part about this whole thing is that I was happy with my life out there, everything except work.  My husband convinced me it was time for a change, and while I agree I needed the job change, I am sad that my skillset basically restricts me to the East or West Coast...both places where it is very hard to live, even making a good wage.

We have a beautiful old farmhouse, huge with two yards and a big old concrete porch.  It's on the edge of town, so my backyard is open farmland as far as the eye can see.  At night sometimes you can hear the cows moo as they come into pasture.  And the sky is so clear and vast...you can see all the constellations easily, without a telescope.  Its so quiet there you can hear things a few miles off, and watching a storm roll across the prarie is a wonder you only see out where there are no buildings.

It's a beautiful place, for all there are no trees except down by the riverbank.  It's so safe, we can leave our doors unlocked, and delivered packages are often left on the porch near the door.  The only real crime we have in town is drunk college students being drunk college students, and the occasional meth lab. 

There's drawbacks too, though living in a small town...in the winter, driving is downright dangerous.  There's no public transportation outside the immediate town, and since we don't work in town it means we are forced to commute to work in Sidney, where there is no public transportation either.  There's no cuisene to speak of, seafood is an unknown substance out there except battered and fried, the nearest place to go shopping for anything but clothes is in Denver, 130 miles away. 

Daycare is a lot cheaper out there, and the daycares are in general better run.  One of the advantages of a small town is that if you're a bad daycare, you're out of business.  That pretty much goes for any restaurant and retail store, too.

There's good things and bad things about everywhere...I happen to like small town living, but the job opportunities not being there are what kills us.  It ties you into one job to stay in that one area, which sucks, and I knew after the way my prior employer started treating me they had reached the point of taking me for granted because I'd never leave.

Well, I left...and I am a little bitter about it, because I left too the life I loved so much, for a life out here I can't love in any way shape or form until my family is with me again.  Here's hoping I hear about the clearance today so I can start work tomorrow...please oh please oh please God, let me get that phone call today.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Apartment hunting, hotel living, and tips for the woman traveling alone

Today I spent time looking at a second apartment...I put in an application for an apartment in Hyattsville.  It's a nice enough place, I suppose, but not knowing the city and the areas I should avoid during the day, I went mostly by online research and asking locals. 

To find out what an area's really like, ask locals.  Ask them where they live, what kinds of crime they deal with.  I had a very nice gentleman explain that he preferred dealing with the crime from illegals versus other ethnic groups, because other ethnic groups usually had violent crime (murder and rapes) versus your garden-variety crime (theft.)  Despite having lived in the country the past few years, I did grow up in Denver, and I thank God that my ex was a dispatcher.  I wound up learning a lot about the seedier side of life from him. 

A lot of crime isn't what the ordinary person sees...that perfectly nice house down the street could house a meth lab during the summer, that nice neighbor who walks your dog could be a pedophile.  At the same time, being paranoid about that sort of thing means most of the time you wind up hiding in your house with the door locked 99% of the time. 

That being said, there are a few things a woman should look for in an apartment if she's in a strange city, and precautions she should take if she's alone.  You can't prevent crime, and if someone really wants to mug you, he or she will.  The trick is not looking vulnerable or weak.  As for apartment tips...here's what I've found works best, having lived alone and being sent on contract a number of strange cities by myself.

1.  Do not get a ground floor unit.  It's way too easy for someone to kick in a ground-level window, bars or not.  A second or third floor apartment may be a pain for hauling groceries, but it makes it harder for someone to come in other than the front door.

2.  Lock your door when you're inside, and keep it locked even if you only go down for a minute.  Someone can slip inside an unlocked or open door in seconds, and then you are trapped inside with them when you return.

3.  Park your car somewhere with light, lock it and make it someplace preferably where you can see it from a window of your apartment.

4.  Try to get a unit with laundry inside it.  Besides being convenient, it prevents you from having to go alone to the laundry room at what might be odd hours of the night (if you procrastinate like I do) and make sure you stay with your clothes if you do go to a laundry room...people will steal the weirdest things.  I had some very nice VS underwear stolen one time.

5.  If you want to get an idea of whether a neighborhood is decent, look at the houses that surround the area.  Are they kept up?  Are their lawns mowed?  Do folks have flowers and such planted?  If it is obvious people take care of their property, there's a good chance they care if their kids are safe playing outside.

6.  When you're out to make friends, be polite, but don't volunteer vital information.  Especially don't volunteer things like the area you live, what kind of car you drive or anything else that indicates your income.  You don't know who is overhearing your conversation and might follow you home to steal that nice car or mug you for your purse.

Another thing that is often-ignored is the gut feel you get from an apartment.  If your gut feels uneasy about a place, no matter how minuscule, don't write it off.  We are more perceptive than we give ourselves credit for, and my gut has NEVER steered me wrong when it comes to house-hunting.

When you live in a hotel for any length of time, eating gets expensive.  If you can, get a room that has a fridge and a microwave (sometimes called a suite.)  Those will save you umpteen amounts on your budget, because you'll be able to bring groceries back to your room to eat.  I brought back my first groceries, and it included sandwich fixings, cereal and milk, a few snacks and a gallon of drinking water.  I have silverware and plastic cups and plates I bought for the apartment, so some dish soap and sponges are a lot cheaper than paper cups and plates.

Leave your "Do Not Disturb" sign out all the time.  Have the room cleaned when you are there and can watch the cleaning process.  As a single woman traveling alone, the less people who are in your room without your knowledge, the better. 

Ditto goes for your apartment...maintenance people should always call ahead before maintenance is done, and they should ALWAYS call before they enter your unit.  If they do not, complain to the office. 

Safety and living cheaply while in transit is important.  But most important is safety, before all else.  I hope these tips help folks who may not have traveled alone.

The Air and Space Museum pictures!

Yes people, we were the second country on Earth to stuff a guy in a really heavy, hot spacesuit and launch him into orbit in a tin can!

A shot of the lunar lander.  Trust me, it's MUCH BIGGER in real life.

A shot of the planes suspended above the main lobby you walk into.

A shot of the cockpit of the fighter jet.

Proof that pretty much everyone beat the U.S. to the idea of fighter jets...

One (or THE, I don't remember) of the first fighter planes.

Different kinds of plane engines...hard to believe a two-stroke was what powered the Wright plane!  They're so tiny, they're freaking cute!

A sign explaining that the garden grounds around the Castle are actually a roof garden for a museum that exists underneath the Castle...sweet!

The Smithsonian Castle.  It's impressive inside, too!

 This definately isn't rural Colorado!  Taken off the Promenade, looking towards 8th Avenue.

I have many more pictures of the Air and Space museum, and I will be the first to admit that I got tired halfway through the museum.  So the pics you see are from the FIRST FLOOR.  The second floor has many more exhibits, and I wished I'd spent more time watching the clips from the 20's and 30's about the first plane flights...those were truly interesting because they showcase the fact that pilots, once upon a time were superheroes in the minds of the American public.  I've got to go another day and do the second floor of the museum...and then I've got my pick of 16 other museums along the National Mall.

I imagine it'll take me some years to see everything, if I'm still out here. But it sure is educational...and awe-inspiring the things humans have been able to accomplish in the past 150 years.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The wait before the job is hardest...

I heard lil girl on the phone today...when her Daddy let me talk to her, she was silent, listening to my voice...and cried when he took the phone away.  That sort of thing is enough to drive you crazy when you're sitting in a hotel room 1500+ miles away, wishing you were home at the other end of the line versus being the one on the phone.

When the job starts, I hope it will be easier...but right now, every new experience I have I enjoy, with a nagging guilt in the back of my head that I know I'd enjoy it more if my lil girl and husband were there to enjoy it too.

I hope this time goes by fast...as much as I enjoy being out in a new city and having a new job (hopefully starting soon) ... it's not home.  And it won't be home until I am with my family again. 

Enough guilt tripping.  I need to figure out a way to let go of that...I know they don't blame me, and I know that ultimately I'm doing what's right for my family...but my heart only knows that it aches in the absence of those I love most.  It's hard to reconcile the two, if not impossible.

So to help alleviate the guilt, I made myself go back to the Metro station and take the train to the Smithsonian.  I figured a day of walking around in sensory overload mode would help drown some of the depression.  All I have to say is, OMG the Air and Space Museum is COOL.  It is a geek's dream, and I must've had people staring at me drooling like an idiot over engine types and space shuttle displays.

I had a closet dream as a kid of being a great scientist or astronaut...so sue me if I wasn't vicariously living it out in my imagination whilst ogling cool exhibits.  I might add that I only saw the first FLOOR of the museum...I was too tired after that first floor plus the Smithsonian Castle plus getting LOST past L'Enfant station that I decided I'd come back to see the upstairs of the Air and Space Museum another day. 

I did pick up my daughter a pretty watercolor painting book about the cherry trees in D.C...I plan on reading it to her over the video link as soon as we have one.  I know she will love it!  I will figure out how to post pics or provide a link to my FB album, whichever one actually works.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

First Post!

I went looking for commuter Mommy blogs and didn't find any...since the idea has been bouncing around in my head for awhile now and I have nothing better to do, this is my attempt to detail my life as a commuter mom. 

Last week I accepted a job offer for a job in Washington D.C.  No, I can't tell you where or what for.  It's part of the agreement I signed.  Suffice it to say, it pays REALLY well and requires all sorts of paperwork with scary questions like, "Give us the phone number of someone who lived next door when you were 12."

All this would be fine and dandy, except I was coming out to take the job from Sterling, Colorado.  It's perfectly acceptable if you don't know where it is.  It's a small town 40 miles from the border with Nebraska in northeast Colorado.  The number of people that lived in that town probably live in a 4 block radius out here.  So last week, I said goodbye to my co-workers of 3 years, my husband bought me a car to drive out here, and I left him and my almost-1-year-old daughter in Sterling while I drove out to D.C. into the great unknown.

Before I left I was scared shitless, I will admit.  The largest city I've lived in before Sterling was Denver, CO, where I grew up...but even that doesn't compare to D.C.  Today was my very first Metro ride, which I was happy to find was relatively painless as far as figuring out what train goes to where.  The bus system in Denver leaves much to be desired, and the Light Rail is a pale imitation of the monolith that is the Metro system in general...it all operates like a well-oiled machine.   

The attitude is much different out here as well...it's a lot less relaxed.  Folks aren't rude (thank goodness, I haven't yet met anyone who was rude) but the general consensus I get is that everybody has thier business and you're best sticking to yours.  I don't necessarily find that offputting despite having spent the last few years in a small town, because the small town taught me quickly that knowing too much about your neighbors is as bad or worse than knowing nothing about them. 

I hope this blog will become both a log and a way to reflect on my experience out here...I may only be out here for the duration of my contract or I may be out here permenantly and my husband and daughter will come join me when things are figured out.  I also hope that someday my daughter might have a chance to read this and know that her Mommy still loves her more than anything, even being 2000 miles away.