There Goes My Brain

We womenfolk know that there are certain conditions that may diminish mental capacity. “Pregnancy brain” we call it, or a “menopausal moment.”

Mind you, the only difference between the female and the male of the species is that the female actually acknowledges that these fluctuations occur. Men have them too. They just give them different names like “bad day at work” or “Ferrari.”

I’m having one of these less-than-optimal phases right now. It’s called “moving brain.” Like pregnancy or menopause, just because you know it’s happening doesn’t necessarily make it any easier!

We pack out in less than three weeks, and despite it being downright easy, compared to the nightmare that was our departure to Vienna, and despite being a generally organized sort of person, I’m still becoming totally ADD. Again.

My husband has to learn Polish before we go to Warsaw. This is accomplished with ten months of intensive language training at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, VA. During that time, the State Department gives us a choice: we can either 1.) be stationed back in DC and they will ship all our stuff from Vienna to us, or 2.) we can ship just 600 pounds of air freight (AKA Unaccompanied Baggage or UAB) to DC and the rest of our stuff will go to storage for a year. Meanwhile, State pays for us to live in a furnished apartment in the DC area, because duh, we don’t have our stuff.

I had to think about this for about ten seconds. Would I rather pack and unpack all this crap my precious household goods twice in one year or live simply and get free rent? Actually, it was about two seconds. Once I get this stuff organized and packed out, I definitely do NOT want to see it for another year.

So, I’m good with it all. But, even though we’ve done three languages, they were all at the tail end of a DC tour. We have never actually lived out of air freight for full year (four seasons!) before. So, after 26 years in the Foreign Service, I get to figure this out for the first time.

Of course in DC, we can buy whatever we forget to pack. But still, planning a year ahead and squeezing all that into 600 pounds (more like 500 because the packing material counts too) is mentally taxing. We are both having trouble keeping it all straight: both forgetting things, both wondering what will go wrong this time. We find ourselves saying at least couple of times per week, “we’re getting too old for this sh**.” Maybe we are, but we are determined to pull it all together for one last overseas adventure before settling comfortably into a gradually accumulating mountain of junk like normal people!

Our nest is emptying, which both simplifies and complicates things. My daughter was in college when we left for Vienna, so a lot of her stuff came with us. Now she is going to graduate school and starting her grown-up life, her stuff had to get back to the States one way or another. She did a great job slimming it all down, but still, she has stuff, you know, like people do!

Fortunately, she had never used some air freight shipment she was entitled to as a college student (don’t ask me to explain) and so she got 100 pounds to ship back to my mother’s house a few weeks ago. Plus five large boxes went in the mail, and two suitcases went with her on the plane. So, phew, that’s all gone, but it was a hurdle. Which we get to jump again when we pack all that stuff into a Toyota Prius and drive across the country with it in September, but I’m trying not to think about that right now.

On the positive side, now she’s moved out, I can use her room for my piles of stuff. One corner for UAB (air freight) one for stuff we will use for the three weeks after packout and then leave here (AKA a “welcome kit” but in our case it’s just our old sheets and towels, etc.) and one for luggage and carry-ons.

My life as a series of piles of stuff.
My life as piles of stuff. It’s not as interesting as you might think.

My daughter was the lucky one. My son is most likely going to university in England this fall. But he’s coming back with us to the States until that starts in mid-September. And he doesn’t get an air freight shipment to the U.K. And most of his stuff is going to be packed up for a year before going to Warsaw. Including his desktop computer, guitars, and amplifiers. It looks like he will be going to university with just one suitcase, a cheap notebook computer, and maybe one of his three precious guitars.

He appears to be in denial about this at the moment, which means I will probably be organizing most of this for him. And let’s face it, I’m the pro here. So, let’s see, his share of the air freight needs to include everything he needs for a few (hot and muggy) weeks in DC, plus everything he needs for a (cold and rainy) year in England, plus everything he needs to be a college student, and at least one guitar, and maybe an amp, too. Argh.

Oh, and we have cats. Which we love dearly, but one is old and kind of nuts and the other is part-Siamese, way too smart, and has voice like a foghorn, and yeah, that’s going to be fun.

Temporarily quiet.
Temporarily quiet. Conserving energy for the transatlantic flight, no doubt.

Here’s a weird thing: though we had 5,800 pounds coming to Vienna, and I’ve unloaded a TON of stuff since then (literally a ton, I am sure) and my daughter moved all her stuff out (see above) the moving company surveyor estimated that our shipment will be 6,200 pounds. 400 more than we started with! Excuse me, but how is that possible? Is the air heavier in Vienna than in DC?

We are allowed 7,200 pounds, so it’s not a crisis, but I am still irrationally annoyed about it. All I can figure is that the guy didn’t understand which items of furniture are staying and which are going. He may not have understood that our bed is an air mattress, either. Anyway, I’m going to be watching the movers carefully, because I have heard of at least three cases at post in which estimates turned out to be under by a lot and people had to pay for the extra weight. I think it’s a scam, as matter of fact, and I don’t intend to get caught by it.

So, anyway, my mind is going in a gazillion directions right now. The only thing keeping me sane is breaking it down into steps and trying to get one thing done every day. It’s not that I don’t have time, you see, it’s that I can only make X number of decisions per day. Then smoke starts coming out my ears and I have to put on My Cat From Hell or Auction Hunters and wind embroidery floss on little plastic cards.

Cheap therapy.
Cheap therapy.

I actually bought an estate lot of embroidery floss on eBay because I knew that untangling it, winding it, sorting it, and embroidering little useless frilly things with it would be therapeutic. It is. And, I think I have room for this new hobby in my air freight!

Fancy hankies?
Fancy hankies?

One comment

  1. I feel your pain- after a year in language in DC, I’m trying to figure out how I accumulated so much crap! Though I only arrived with air freight and my suitcases, I feel like I now have an absurd amount of stuff to weed out in the next few weeks…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.